Are our beliefs and behaviour influenced by how much we earn?

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

Everyone knows how practical things are tangibly influenced by how much money we have. Our housing, schooling, food security, general security, access to legal representation, health services and a host of other things are determined by our monthly pay cheques. 

But what else in our lives are affected by our income brackets?

How income affects hobbies

Our hobbies and pastimes are hugely dependent on our income. People tend to do what they can afford and since everything costs money, lower income people have less access to leisure activities. Rich people also often have more downtime to fill with hobbies because they can afford appliances, housekeepers and nannies that free up time otherwise taken up by tasks such as cleaning, child-minding, hand-washing laundry and ironing.

Read more: Nearly half of SA women wish they were thinner

If we filter the results of our She Says Female Nation Survey to see how income affects the activities women do to unwind, some interesting trends emerge:

• The  richer you are the more likely you are to do a number of activities like exercise, read books or magazines, watch TV and movies, spend time in nature and shop.

• Women in the no to very low income (under R5000 per month) are less likely to do all activities compared to their wealthier counterparts – except for listening to music. This is the only pastime that low income women do more of than any other demographic. 

• Women who earn R20000 per month or more are twice as likely to drink to unwind (30%) than those with low income (15%). This holds true for those who earn up to R75000 per month. After that it drops back to 15%. 

How income affects behaviour

Low income and very high income people are less likely to lie about their spending, hide their spending or hide money from a significant other compared to those with middle income. Some might argue that’s because it’s more difficult to be oblique about money when there is either very much of very little of it, but there could be a host of factors at play, not the least of which the fact that low income women are generally not in charge of household finances. Other interesting findings include: 

• A depressing 1 in 3 women in low income brackets says they are often scared. This number decreases steadily as income rises and is finally halved in the highest earning segment where 1 in 6 women earning over R75 000 associated with that statement. Since people in low income brackets have little to no access to any sort of security, whether it’s financial, food, home, social or municipal it’s hardly surprising that they often feel scared. 

Lower income women are much more likely to do the majority of the household chores, while sharing chores equally is most common amongst R10 000 – R50 000 earners.

• While there are fluctuations, sexual abuse and gender violence remains pretty consistent no matter the income group. The highest incidence (28%) of being hit by a man is for women in the R5000 – R10 000 income bracket. The highest incidence (27%) of being sexually abused or raped is for women in the R60 000 – R75 000 income bracket.

• Your likelihood to have used drugs recreationally increases dramatically with income – from 1 in 10 among those who earn less than R5000 to 1 in 4 among those who earn more than R60 000.

• Lower income women are much more likely to do the majority of the household chores, while sharing chores equally is most common amongst R10 000 – R50 000 earners. After that the likelihood of paying someone to do chores increases dramatically.

• As income rises the percentages of equal childrearing rises. Middle earners are twice as likely to associate with the statement: my partner and I share childrearing tasks equally than low earning women.

W24 spoke to feminist and gender activist Hannelie Booyens about the fact that underprivileged women still largely have to carry the burden of housework and childrearing singlehandedly while trying to earn a living. 

“It’s very disturbing how often women still bear the burden of domestic work and childcare duties on their own,” she says.

“One of the most diehard gender stereotypes is that women are better nurturers and homemakers than men. This is unscientific and dangerous nonsense, especially when it converges with traditions that condemn women to a life of servitude. In South Africa millions of women suffer as a result of toxic beliefs that dictate they perform all the cooking, cleaning and child rearing tasks on their own. 

“Earlier this year I met a teenager who opened my eyes to the impact of gender stereotypes on young girls. Cabangile Mdluli’s story featured in a book I edited for the NPO Salesian Life Choices about remarkable Cape Town Youth. Cabangile’s mother left her and her four younger siblings with her grandparents and at the age of nine she and her cousin (10) had to cook and clean for a household of 19 people because it is tradition for girls to perform these tasks. 

These kind of traditional roles have a massive impact on girls and women. If you arrive tired and hungry at school or university, you cannot compete on equal footing with boys.

“They would wake up at 5 o’clock every morning and walk for 30 minutes to collect water before making breakfast and cleaning up. Often they didn’t have time to eat before going to school. After school they had to work in a communal garden for two hours before starting to prepare dinner – which was always served to the male members of the family first. They would be the last to go to bed at night. Weekends were no better because they had to wash everyone’s clothes as well as do all the cooking and cleaning. 

Read more: Here's how millennials feel about motherhood

“Because of their morning duties, the girls were always late for school. These kind of traditional roles have a massive impact on girls and women. If you arrive tired and hungry at school or university, you cannot compete on equal footing with boys. Unless women and men start to question traditional gender roles, women will continue to lag behind in every aspect of their lives.”

How income affects beliefs 

The more you earn the less likely you are to be religious. While 86% of those earning under R5000 per month said they pray only 69% of those earning over R60 000 do. Other differences include: 

• Rich people have mostly lower levels of confidence in the government and SAPS except for the very wealthy (those earning over R75000 per month) who show the same trends as low income earners. 

• Lower income people are slightly happier with their sex lives.

• The more you earn the more likely you are to support the right to choose abortion and LGBT rights. 

• The richer you are the more likely you are to report discrimination.

• Wealthier women are more likely to describe themselves as positive people, and yet are more likely to have been diagnosed with a mental illness and to say they suffer from depression. 

It is important to note that this does not necessarily mean that women in lower income brackets are less likely to experience mental illness or suffer from depression. 

Poor women, on the other hand, experience much more stressors – in fact, one can say they live under what can be called institutional hopelessness.

In fact, W24 spoke to Lizette Rabe, chair of the Department of Journalism at Stellenbosch University and founder of the Ithemba Foundation, a non-profit organisation that focuses on the public education of mental health about this statistic and she had the following to say: 

“The fact that more women in the higher income brackets present with depression or are diagnosed with mental illness is not a fact that they are more inclined to mental illnesses, but simply a fact caused by socio-economic circumstances. They not only have the means to seek help, but also the education to recognise symptoms and realise they are developing a mental illness, and therefore in a position to seek help. 

“Poor women, on the other hand, experience much more stressors – in fact, one can say they live under what can be called institutional hopelessness. Women who develop mental illnesses in higher economic brackets are the fortunate ones: they have access to help. One should also realise that depression and related mental illnesses in the black community carry a much bigger taboo, so that even those who can afford it, would rather not speak about it, or even acknowledge it.

"While we know that depression doesn’t discriminate, says SADAG Operations Director, Cassey Chambers, "it can affect any one, any age, any race, any economic background, any gender, any religion, etc.

"However, we do know that people living in poorer more disadvantaged areas do not have the access or resources to seek help and treatment, which prevents many people from seeking help. We also know that the stigma surrounding mental illness in rural areas is very high, and becomes a major challenge for people seeking help.

"Often, they are too embarrassed to speak out, or they fear being treated differently or even shunned from the community. This could also explain why so many women don’t access help for their mental health issue. According to Prof Crick Lund from UCT, only 25% of people living with a mental illness are able to access treatment and care. However, that means that 75% of people DO NOT have access to professionals, hospitals, facilities and resources."

Read more: She Says Female Nation Survey results

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