On Wednesday, instead of blogging, I spent some time searching through the recently-released 1940 US Census archives. I was looking for my parents, who were both young children when the census was taken.
I knew my dad's address when he was growing up, so it didn't take me too long to locate his record. (As of now, you can only search based on street name. There's no search available by last name yet, though I'm sure that will be available some time in the future.) My mom moved around a few times when she was young, so she gave me several possible addresses. After a lot of pouring over records, I was able to find hers as well.
There's more information in the census than just names and ages. There was also whether the person rented or owned their home and how much they paid. There was the last grade completed and their citizenship status. And there was their occupation, how many hours they worked in the week before the census, and how much they earned in the previous year.
And that's where I found some interesting insights. My dad's father and my mom's father both reported earning almost exactly the same amount of money that year - their salaries were within $25. But how they earned and what they did with that money was quite different.
My dad's father was a truck driver for the garment industry, a job he worked at for most of his working years. He had worked 48 hours the week before the census was taken. My mom's father was a proprietor of a small neighborhood grocery store. He had worked 90 hours the week before. So my mom's father worked almost twice as many hours for the same amount of pay. If you throw in the unpaid labor my mom's mother did for the store, the per-hour earnings are even less.
At the time of the census, both families were renters. But years and years later, my dad's family still lived in the same apartment (that's why I knew the address), whereas a few years after the census, my mom's family had purchased a two-family house. They lived in the second-floor apartment and rented out the bottom floor. So they had business income as well as real estate income because of the hard work they did earlier to build their business.
The moral? Hard work does pay off eventually. Work now to increase your income, save money, and find investment opportunities, and you'll be much better off in the future. Don't do those things, and you'll continue to stay in the same place you've been in all along.
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