Necessary, but not sufficient

One of the laws of logic that is flouted most often is the difference between necessity and sufficiency.

You might be familiar with the phrase “necessary and sufficient” from your maths classes in school. What does that mean?

Take the sentence: “Paul is a bachelor”. A necessary condition for this sentence to be true is that Paul is not married (because that is the very definition of a bachelor).

However, being unmarried is not sufficient for the sentence “Paul is a bachelor” to be true. Why? Because Paul could be a 5-year old boy. In this case, Paul would obviously not be considered to be a bachelor even though he is unmarried.

The necessary and sufficient condition for the sentence “Paul is a bachelor” to be true is that Paul is an adult, male and not married.

All of this is important to keep in mind when I discuss the results of a new study by a group of Swiss researchers that investigated the connection between wages and the morality or immorality of a job.

They looked at surveys that asked people how immoral they thought different industries to be (they also did it for a group of Swiss companies, but I won’t show the results here). Then they looked at the wages paid in these industries and found that industries that are perceived to be more immoral pay higher wages.

The link between morality of an industry and wages

Source: Schneider et al. (2020).

Furthermore, they went into the laboratory and asked people if they would choose a job in a certain industry and how much they would need to get paid to do that job. They found that industries that are perceived as less moral have to pay higher wages to attract employees. Even worse, the perceived morality of an industry acts as a sorting mechanism with people with – let’s say – “more flexible morals” entering predominantly industries that are perceived as less moral and people with higher moral standards entering industries that are perceived as being more moral.

Thus, there are more people with more flexible morals in industries that are perceived as immoral, but not everyone who works in an immoral industry is immoral. As a banker, I emphasise that this is an important distinction…