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June 30, 2006

Money Can't Buy Happinees

But seeking money can harm it:

the researchers examined data from a nationwide Bureau of Labor Statistics survey on how people with varying household income levels spend their time. These data show that people with higher incomes devote relatively more of their time to work, shopping, childcare and other "obligatory" activities. Women surveyed by the researchers in Ohio associated those activities with "higher tension and stress." People with higher incomes spend less time on "passive leisure" activities such as socializing or watching television, which the respondents viewed as more enjoyable.

According to the government statistics, men making more than $100,000 per year spend 19.9 percent of their time on passive leisure, compared to 34.7 percent for men making less than $20,000. Women making more than $100,000 spend 19.6 percent of their time on passive leisure, compared with 33.5 percent of those making less than $20,000.

"Despite the weak relationship between income and global life satisfaction or experienced happiness, many people are highly motivated to increase their income," the study said. "In some cases, this focusing illusion may lead to a misallocation of time, from accepting lengthy commutes (which are among the worst moments of the day) to sacrificing time spent socializing (which are among the best moments of the day)."

June 30, 2006 | Permalink


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Well, that's a nice survey, but it would be interesting to see how those different groups scored their happiness. I'm going to guess that our friends at $20,000 aren't waking up every morning wondering how they'll contain their joy for yet another day.

I'd almost expect this to be pushed by some anti-tax group as, "See what a burden the rich carry for you? And we are willing to bear even more through this tax cut!"

Posted by: Chuck | Jun 30, 2006 2:25:52 PM

There's also the point that most people who make more than $100,000/yr. have pretty cushy jobs. If you're able to read blogs, have lunch with friends, and have intellectually satisfying work and some control of your schedule, it's not too bad to be at work. And the golf and skiing (not to mention security) that come with a high-income job aren't bad either.

Posted by: Ted | Jun 30, 2006 8:24:12 PM

Interesting, but I'd personally like to test that hypothesis.

Posted by: sparrow | Jun 30, 2006 8:56:19 PM

Measuring stress is an overly simplistic method of evaluating activity. Sex is stressful but most of us wouldn't avoid it for that reason. Exhileration can be associated with "Runners' High" or engaging in wily manoevering. You don't get much of that doing merely exhausting work.

Posted by: opit | Jul 2, 2006 10:58:02 AM

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