Employment and HR

Why Do You Care So Much About Your Neighbours Income Levels?

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why you care so much about your neighbours income levels



A good conversation starter often begins with the weather but in neighborhoods the neighbours talk careers, income levels and the business of everyone around them.

Does money really make you happy if you have more than your neighbour does? For some of you reading this, YES and others not so much. There is peace of mind for some people knowing the income levels of their neighbours and for others it’s simply a war on who earns more and who gets the upper-hand on conversations.

Have you ever driven down the street making your way home only to notice a congregation of neighbours chatting away. What are they talking about? Probably other neighbours, real estate or general gossip. Perhaps they are just friends planning the next get together but I’ve yet to run into many of those neighbourly conversations.

Making more money than your neighbour may make you feel like the happiest person on the block but why do we care so much? You might tell yourself that you don’t and perhaps that is the truth but how often have you wondered what your neighbour does for a living?

Equality is a universal value that humans want because no one likes to do the same work for less reward. If someone was talking about what your neighbour did for work would you turn your back or stick your ear in a bit closer to hear all the juicy details?

Everyone is different but I’m betting that you’ll stick around to find out what’s going down on your street because as humans we want to know what and who surrounds our space, it’s a natural thing.


The Importance of your Neighbours Income levels


Last week we met our neighbours for the first time and confirmed our suspicion that we were living behind two well paid police officers. The first thing that popped into our heads was oh good we’re safe, lol. For some reason we feel comfortable knowing that we are surrounded by police officers, paramedics and two fire fighters on our street.

When we mentioned to another neighbour that we met our newest neighbours they asked, Are they police officers like we heard they were? We confirmed that yes they were and their eyeballs went from half-moon to full moon in seconds. Instantly we thought they had the same peace of mind feeling we had but nope, not even close. Their response to us was, “I bet they earn a boat-load of money”.

Obviously that wasn’t the reaction we were going for however it did intrigue our money-hungry blogger senses in a superhero kind of way. We looked it up, and only realized we did it because the neighbour put it in our heads that police officers make lots of money and we wanted to see that number.

They were right, they both earn well over the $100,000 a year mark but it didn’t shake, rattle or roll us like perhaps it would have for our neighbour. Maybe it was because I earn over 6 figures a year as well. This wasn’t the first time we’ve talked to neighbours on our street who want to know what other neighbours do for a living and bring up money.

There must be a reason why we are driven to know as much as we can about our neighbours including how much money they make. Perhaps the person who earns the most is captain or envy of the neighbourhood whether they know it or not.

I know when I was started my new career last year a couple of the neighbours brought up the fact that I must be earning a nice salary when they found out what I did for a living. I always just give the mind your own business smirk but realized that people want to know.

I don’t think it’s about jealousy as much as it is simply wanting to compare what they have to what someone else has. When it comes to income there are options available if you want to earn more money such as finding a second job, writing a book, buying and selling online, going back to school for a second-career or even a hobby turned business such as blogging.

For the most part I believe those neighbours perhaps are being nosey but everyone does it although some keep a black book with notes. It’s one thing to want to know and another to track it for the purpose of comparison or jealousy. Mrs. CBB is the first person to run upstairs to see what’s going on when she hears noises outside. Other than that we know what many of our neighbours do because people talk.

Random neighbour conversation : Oh, Sally yes she’s a vet and her husband works for the local butcher. Now we can all sleep better tonight knowing what our neighbours do for a living, how much money they potentially earn and where to avoid shopping or going if we don’t want to bump into them.

I read an article recently about Paul Bloom who is a Yale cognitive scientist who gave a talk at The Bell House in Brooklyn. In his talk he discussed his book, Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil and why humans want to be one up over our neighbours from childhood to adulthood.


The Wall Street Protest


As a child we want to have the upper-hand or the relative advantage option having more than another because fairness doesn’t matter. There are two pillars of morality, Reciprocity= Fairness and Empathy= Compassion. Have a look at the short video of two capuchin monkeys where they both are asked to task giving a rock with a cucumber slice as a reward.

The one monkey is perfectly happy with this cucumber until the reward changes for her neighbour who gets juicy, sweet grapes. Notice how the second monkey doesn’t give a care in the world that she’s not getting a cucumber but rather a grape. Once we taste what’s out there we know when we are getting the good stuff.

You may enjoy cucumbers more than grapes but for the sake of the experiment, sweets rule! The same goes for earning money, we know what money can do so getting a little vs. more is like getting cucumbers instead of grapes.

Compare this to someone offering a chocolate bar to one child and the other a carrot for the same task. This unequal pay for service was deemed unfair by the monkey and she makes that known. I want what she is getting and she demands it as you will see.

As funny as that is to see this is the way we as society feel we should be rewarded for completing the same tasks as our neighbour. This is not always the case and can bring out the worst in people just as the monkey displayed.

Simple Fairness Scenario

I go to work every day and earn $20 an hour but she gets $50 an hour for doing less or something not as demanding physically or mentally. Clearly there are other factors involved with income levels such as education and experience or even the organization we are hired by but for some they only see dollar signs.

As we age we learn about sharing and train ourselves to understand fairness and in some cases the older we get we give more than we get. Even so, we will always have that part of our mind that is inquisitive because we want to know about everything just a child wants to learn.


Income levels comparison


Not only do people care about how much  money their colleagues are making at work they care about what their neighbours are earning as well. This becomes a war on money that really adds stress to people’s lives for no reason at all.

I don’t think that all neighbours who are nosey about who is living on their street are jealous about how much money they are earning. Perhaps it’s just something that we want to know and if we find out we are earning more makes us feel better about ourselves which makes it more of a personal issue.

When our neighbour found out that both the police officers were earning 6 figures each they questioned why they purchased a house for $650,000 two years ago instead of buying a million dollar house up the street. They can afford it can’t they?

The problem here is that people only see or hear what they want to hear even if it’s none of their business. We don’t know their personal situation and perhaps they didn’t want a large home or maybe they have debt they are paying off. On the flip side there are people who do have large homes but can’t afford them. Does that make them rich or richer than their neighbour? Oh wait, you make minimum wage…you must be house poor then.

Believe what you want to believe I guess.

Discussion: Have you ever engaged in conversation with your neighbors about other neighbours and where they work, income levels?

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