The price of happiness
Money won't make you happy, or at least, not as happy as you might think. A study by Princeton University researchers has shown that the link between earning more money and day-to-day happiness is a tenuous one – and extra dollars in your pocket doesn't necessarily translate to spending more time doing the things you enjoy.
The study was conducted by Princeton professors, economist Alan B. Kruger and Nobel laureate and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, along with with psychologists David Schkade of the University of California-San Diego, Norbert Schwarz of the University of Michigan and Arthur Stone of the State University of New York-Stony Brook.
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The research team approached the study with an alternate way of looking at well being, largely focusing on surveying people’s actual life experiences as opposed to their own judgments of their life.
"The belief that high income is associated with good mood is widespread but mostly illusory," the researchers wrote in the June 30 issue of Science. "People with above-average income are relatively satisfied with their lives but are barely happier than others in moment-to-moment experience, tend to be more tense, and do not spend more time in particularly enjoyable activities."
The researchers developed an “enjoyment scale” whereby people were asked to record their day’s activities, along with emotions and feelings in a diary format. This Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) was used in a 2004 study of 909 employed women from Texas.
The new study looked at data from three major surveys; the 2004 study, the 2005 study of 810 women from Ohio and the nationwide Bureau of Labor Statistics survey.
The 2004 study found that most of the women surveyed believed that those who earned less than $20,000 per year would spend 32 percent more of their time unhappy opposed to those earning above $100,000 per year. However the results of the study highlighted that those earning less than $20,000 were only 12 percent more unhappy than the higher income bracket.
The 2005 study illustrated that income had little effect on an individual’s happiness from moment to moment. "If people have high income, they think they should be satisfied and reflect that in their answers," Krueger said. "Income, however, matters very little for moment-to-moment experience." The government statistics highlighted that men earning less than $20,000 per year spent 13.6 percent more time on leisurely activities than those men in the $100,000 plus income bracket.
Similarly women earning less than $20,000 spent 13.9 percent more time on leisurely activities than the women in the higher income bracket.