Re: Salary taboo

C. Sawin-Wilson (csawin@U.WASHINGTON.EDU)
Mon, 4 Dec 1995 13:36:00 -0800

On Mon, 4 Dec 1995, Mike Salovesh wrote:

> Well, some strange ideas about U.S. culture do seem to float around the
> rest of the world.
> Yes, there is some kind of close relationship between money, status, and
> power here. (Max Weber would not be surprised. Karl Marx would be even
> less surprised.)
> Talking about it, however, in terms of "My salary is x dollars per year;
> what's yours?" is a big no-no in most professional settings. Unions may
> very well be about reducing such marginal distinctions, but most people
> who have "professions" or "occupations"--certainly not such a low-status
> thing as a "job"--would be more shocked at such a statement than they
> would by a discussion of personal tastes in sexual encounters.
.....But in the U.S., it would be shocking to say exactly how much I get.
> I don't care if it IS publicly published information; I never tell
> anybody what I'm paid except my wife.
> Mike Salovesh <>
> Anthropology Department, Northern Illinois University
> De Kalb, IL 60115 U.S.A.

I always thought it was interesting that, even within my own family, how
much money one made was never talked about. I once wondered aloud how
much my father made, and my mother told me, "Don't you dare ask that kind
of question". Oops! I think this kind of secrecy is a bit paranoid on
the part of Americans...especially for parents not even to tell their own
children how much they make! The sad thing about *that* is that many of
us (I include myself here) grow up without a real understanding of how
much money it takes to live at a certain level, or how to manage the
money we have (and to truly appreciate the kind of sacrifices our parents
make for us--or at least that mine did). I think a lot of people my age
would be better off if it wasn't such a big deal to keep things like that
secret (it's not so much who cares who's making what, as why should it be
a big deal in the first place?).

Carolyn Sawin-Wilson
University of Washington