Does Money Really Buy Happiness? Essays
Four surprising findings from research about money and satisfaction.
Much has been said and written about whether money makes people happy, and the conclusions offered can differ radically, depending on which psychologists, economists, or commentators we listen to. Indeed, the data are confusing and contradictory, but I believe that I can offer some reasoned, data-based conclusions.
1. Income and happiness are indeed significantly correlated, although the relationship isn’t super strong.1
In other words, it’s true that the higher we are on the economic ladder, the more money, the happier we report ourselves to be. In many ways, this finding is not at all surprising, given that having money not only gives us opportunities to acquire conveniences and luxuries, but affords us greater status and respect, more leisure time and fulfilling work, access to superior health care and nutrition, and greater security, autonomy, and control. Wealthier people lead healthier lives, have the wherewithal to spend time with people they like, live in safer neighborhoods and less crowded conditions, and enjoy a critical buffer when faced with adversities like illness, disability, or divorce. Indeed, it’s a wonder that the correlation between money and individual happiness isn’t stronger than it is.
Two important caveats are in order, however. First, the relationship between happiness and money only holds for a certain kind of happiness. When people are asked to…