That's a statistical fact that came to mind when I was out at Wally World getting my oil changed this morning. You can chalk that up along side the fact that the average American has approximately 1.0 testicles (to the nearest tenth of a percent).
Meanwhile, back to Wal-Mart. While I was coming back from the grocery side of the building with some store-brand mini-wheats and granola bars (that's why they have the cheap oil changes; you're there for a bit and will likely do some shopping. Can you say "loss-leader," boys and girls?), I contemplated a couple of "associates" in the sporting goods section. It might be an unfair thing to judge intelligence from listening to a snippet of conversation, but they struck me as rather average if not a smidge below. That might be a bit biased, coming from an academic environment, but the pair seemed just plain folks, middle of the pack, high on the left slope of the bell curve.
Wal-Mart has replaced McDonalds as the most-hated employer. In days of yore (the 90s), people complained about minimum-wagey burger-flipping McJobs. Being an "associate" is a step up from a McJob but not too much. However, there is room for advancement; people with discipline and some smarts can move up into management and make a solid wage. Others will work there while going to school, escaping once they get the background to move on. Still others will have this as their a decent approximation of their highest and best use.
Not everyone's going to be a college professor or a engineer or a doctor. If pay correlates with IQ, less-intelligent people will have lower-paying jobs; if half of the people have below average IQs, then half the people will have below-average wages. Of course, most people's abilities will tend to cluster at the middle, so that most people will have a near-average wage; that's what we call the "middle class."
While we as a society need to give everybody the opportunity to succeed, not everyone will get advanced degrees and pull down six-figure incomes. I used to get a six figure income while I was going to graduate school; the problem was that two of those figures were to the right of the decimal point.
People look down their noses at telemarketers, convenience-store clerks, fast-food cashiers who ask you whether you want to supersize it, Wally-World associates and a lot of other low-wage, low-prestige jobs. Half of the population's going to be below the median, both in pay and in prestige. What we need to work on is to create a thriving society where the average keeps going up.
Someone's going to have to pick up the trash, man the school cafeteria, drive the trucks and stock the grocery-store shelves. Hopefully, those people will move on to better things, but let's respect those who are there and the businesses who hire them. Some would like them to get a lot more respect on payday, with better wages and more health benefits; however, that's going to raise prices and may force companies out of business, which will mean zero wages and no benes for those who are laid off.
Here’s to you, Wally-Word Associate. May you move on to better things and keep up the good work.
[Update 4/21 6AM No, Richard, I haven't read the articles in question; Wally-World has been in media coverage a lot and it just built into an article. My more recent prompting might have been a new find, Truck and Barter, an economics web site who have a sub-site, Always Low Prices, devoted to Wal-Mart coverage. ALP does have a link to the Economist piece you mentioned. I will read it later this morning.
The using-cheap-imports-while-being-jingoistic meme is worth pondering. That's a post in itself.]