Hustle Is the Ultimate American Status Symbol, a New Study Says

Businessman working late at night in office

Decades ago, a dude’s high status was symbolized by some pot-bellied plutocrat wearing 10 pounds of gold rings, delighting in endless pastries and relishing in a gold-plated castle somewhere.

That’s not how Americans view social status anymore.

In 2017, and in America, being endlessly stressed, overworked, and busy—the hustle, in other words—are the elite trifecta that signal power and influence, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.

In a series of studies, researchers from Columbia and Harvard universities questioned participants from Italy and the U.S. about what they view as the defining characteristics of prestige. As you can imagine, Italians and Americans had completely different outlooks.

Italians believe a leisurely life was (and still is) a representation of high status, because it suggests that men and women have enough money and resources to live comfortably without breaking their backs and sleeping with their smartphones.

Americans, on the other hand, see busy-ness at work as a symbol of high esteem. People with a frenetic work ethic are viewed as having ‘desired human capital characteristics,’ the researchers explain. These people are seen as more ambitious and competent, and therefore more in demand and scarce in the workplace.

“We found that the more we believe that people have the opportunity for social affirmation based on hard work, the more we tend to think that people who skip leisure and work all the time are of higher standing,” study authors Silvia Bellezza, Neeru Paharia, and Anat Keinan said in a press release.

What’s more, material possessions further demonstrate prominence. People viewed Peapod, the online shopping and delivery grocery brand, as just as much of a status symbol as pricier brands like Whole Foods, because of its associations with a busy lifestyle.

But say you’re just fine with the way you look now. Here are 7 ways you can create a work-life balance that keeps you sane.

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