In the 1994 movie adaptation of the comic book Richie Rich, Macaulay Culkin plays a boy whose immense wealth keeps him having from a normal, friend-filled childhood. The movie’s happy ending—Richie ditches his stuffy prep-school milieu and becomes rich in friendship with some middle-class kids from the sandlot—points to a reassuring PG-movie morality.
However, according to a new study in Social Psychological and Personality Science, it may actually be high earnings that bestow Americans with the ability to spend more time with friends. Using the results of the General Social Survey and American Time Use Survey, Emory University’s Emily Bianchi and the University of Minnesota’s Kathleen Vohs found that while Americans with higher incomes tend to spend more time alone, when they do socialize, they do so more with their friends. Meanwhile, the social interactions of those from lower-income households tend to revolve around family members and neighbors.
Americans at the higher end of the income spectrum spent an average of 6.5 more evenings socializing with friends each year, and 5.8 and 10.3 fewer nights socializing with family members and neighbors, respectively, than those at the lower end. (These results were amplified by the fact that the higher-earning households also spent 6.4 fewer evenings socializing in general.)