The Dirty-Work Premium

For baby boomers who spent their college years vowing not to sell out, it was galling to discover that Corporate America wasn’t necessarily eager to buy them out. New research suggests today’s graduates won’t invite that sort of disappointment. Indeed, the premium they’d ask for selling out, versus doing something high-minded but low-paying, is pretty small. Drawing on an academic-journal article by economist Robert Frank, Harper’s tells of a poll in which students graduating from Cornell were asked how much more they’d have to be paid to take jobs at much-despised corporations versus the equivalent posts at do-gooding organizations. The answer: Not terribly much, compared to salary differentials in the real world. For instance, respondents would require a yearly $13,037 extra (on average) to toil as recruiters for Exxon rather than for the Peace Corps, and an extra $14,185 to be accountants for a big petrochemical company versus a big art museum. They’d expect an additional $18,679 per year to be language teachers for the Central Intelligence Agency instead of for a local high school. To be copywriters for Camel cigarettes rather than for the American Cancer Society, they would demand $24,333. And to be lawyers for the National Rifle Association rather than for the Sierra Club, they’d expect a sell-your-soul bonus of $37,129 a year. Cheap at the price, eh?

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