July 3, 2006

"Once personal wealth exceeds about $12,000 a year..."

"... more money produces virtually no increase in life satisfaction." That's what the happiness experts tell us.
Wow. Let's pause a moment to let all priests, nuns and anarchists take a bow and say, "I told you so!"

"People grossly exaggerate the impact that higher incomes would have on their subjective well-being," said Alan Krueger, a professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University and an author of the study.
Who presumably makes a salary more than ten times that $12,000.
"If you want to know why I think poor people are not that miserable, it is because they are able to enjoy things that Bill Gates has not been able to enjoy, given his schedule at Microsoft," Krueger surmised....

"One of the mistakes people make is they focus on the salary and not the non-salary aspects of work," Krueger said. "People do not put enough weight on the quality of work. That is why work looks like, for most people, the worst moments of the day."
A professor has an interesting perspective on this sort of thing. You have a good salary, so you don't know the pains of really struggling to get by. You have nice working conditions, and you're inclined to take note of that when you compare yourself to people in jobs that pay even more than yours. Oh, those people are so busy and harried that they can't really enjoy life. Of course, this kind of thinking demonstrates exactly that human capacity to rationalize and come to terms with your situation that enables us to find a way to enjoy life under all sorts of conditions. Like only making $12,000.

59 comments:

downtownlad said...

People do not put enough weight on the quality of work.

Why do I think that it's the people who make LESS than $12,000 a year who are not putting enough weight into the quality of their work???

JohnF said...

I thought the key points from the article were (1) much happiness/dissatisfaction comes from comparisons with others in the community, and (2) that "extra" money buys things, but does not secure the intangible features of life that make us happy.

You don't have to watch Citizen Kane to know that both propositions seem reasonable.

Dave said...

Stuff like this makes me even less inclined to respect someone when they say "I'm a professor."

I would be more inclined to respect a prostitute or drug dealer. At least they have no pretensions about what they do.

Higher education has become highly overrated in this country.

John R Henry said...

Once perconal wealth exceeds $12,000 per year...

Wow! Stupidity strikes again. Why whould we trust anything in this article when they don't even know the difference between wealth and income?

Income is the amount of money received per period. In this case the $12m/yr.

Wealth is what is left over from that income after it has been spent. It is possible to have very high income and negative wealth by spending more than one makes. It is also possible to have fairly low income yet accumulate a significant quantity of wealth.

This is not an uncommon error. I blame our schools.

John Henry

John R Henry said...

One other thought:

I wonder if persons with higher levels of wealth (as opposed to income) would be happier than those with lower levels?

I've never thought much about it but off the top of my head it seems it might be possible.

1) People who accumulate wealth are going to tend to be people with self-discipline. That in itself would tend to lead to happiness and satisfaction.

2) People who have a store of wealth have a backup in the event of loss of job or some other disaster. That would seem to add to peace of mind.

John Henry

Simon said...

I wonder how much Richard Layard makes per year...I'm willing to bet it isn't <$12k.

And as for Bill Gates as an example? Sure. When I think of Bill Gates, I think "there's a guy who isn't happy with his life."

Zach said...

There have been a lot of studies that have shown things similar to this. It shouldn't really surprise you -- think of all the happy people who lived in times much poorer than the present. Would you honestly expect to be significantly happier than the average human from the Pleistocene or the Bronze Age?

The elusive thing that happiness research tries to study is utility -- the undefinable thing that people seek to maximize in all cases, the output of the economy. But I think what research like this shows is that happiness is not utility -- it's just an emotion that rezeroes itself to your current circumstances. Happiness as an emotion is more a stimulus to change things that make you unhappy than a useful measurement of how well your life's going.

downtownlad said...

Happiness is not the end goal.

The end goal is human progress. And that requires hard work. Personally - I'd like to see the advancement of the human race reach the point where we can stop or reverse the aging process. Personally, I don't want to die.

Idling around for six out of seven days is not going to contribute much in terms of human knowledge.

Telecomedian said...

The report would have been clearer had it differentiated between income, disposable income and wealth, and if that's tax versus pre-tax.

Big differences, as John Henry mentioned. 12k income is barely made by working a Federal minimum wage job 40 hours a week for a year.

the pooka said...

Who presumably makes a salary more than ten times that $12,000.

Try more like twenty-five times that.

A professor has an interesting perspective on this sort of thing...human capacity to rationalize and come to terms with your situation that enables us to find a way to enjoy life under all sorts of conditions. Like only making $12,000.

I agree. Here's a little quasi-experiment: Ask a dozen professors you know (arts & sciences types, not lawprofs) whether they were more or less happy as a Ph.D. graduate student (a position that nets about $12k/year in most places) than they are now. My bet: an even-up division between "more" and "less."

Robin Goodfellow said...

There is a key flaw at work here. And it is this: people are not able to consciously express their level of quality of life with much accuracy. This is obvious to everyone and yet somehow obvious to no one. Think about it, are you able to generate, say, a number which accurately describes your happiness level to an accuracy of, oh, say, plus or minus 1% on a day to day basis? Unlikely. Happiness is complex and often inscrucable. Sometimes we only know we have it, on a conscious level, after it's gone. In other words, you cannot rely on self-reporting of level of happiness. There just isn't enough granularity there. Just look at the widespread difficulty people have in determining what really makes them happy and in maximizing their own wellbeing.

Unfortunately, this assumption (that people are able to report how happy they are accurately) goes untested and unquestioned all the time. That's poor science, and this report reeks of poor science along so many dimensions. It asks only one question "does more money make people more happy?" but doesn't ask many related questions such as "does happiness and perceived happiness differ?" despite the importance and relevance of such questions.

Zach said...

Incidentally, note the implicitly economic thinking when the researcher compares the worker with a $12,000 a year job to Bill Gates -- he implicitly assumes that if they're equally happy, it's because the sum of the happiness-generating events and the happiness-destroying events adds up to the same thing. Ergo, all that money has little happiness-generating power.

But money isn't the only thing that has surprisingly little happiness payoff. So does getting a promotion, getting married, getting a new car, etc. From an economics of happiness perspective, almost nothing has any value, even if people will fight and scrape to get it.

Tom said...

Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
I read an article in David Horowitz's Heterodoxy several years ago that perhaps stated it better.
Flowers born free everywhere are potted.

PatCA said...

What a crock!

I remember when I was a poor student making about $12,000, and my car broke down. The towing guy said I needed an alternator. He might as well have told me I needed a diamond necklace. I sat down on the curb and cried. I later thought, like Scarlett, with God as my witness, I will never be poor again!

Money doesn't buy happiness, but poverty pretty much guarantees misery.
So I'll take my chances with money.

Internet Ronin said...

I can't find it at the moment, but I read an article quite similar to this subject within the last few days. IIRC, survey results showed that there was a high correlation between frequent church attendance and reported happiness. People who attended church regularly were about twice as likely to be happy than those who never attended, and those who attended infrequently were somewhere in the middle. Wish I could remember where I read that.

Noumenon said...

I live on about $15,000 a year pretax and it buys me individual lodging, shower, electricity, a computer, games, and a great variety of food, so that seems like a very reasonable level for satisfaction to me.

Noumenon said...

Happiness is not the end goal.

The end goal is human progress. And that requires hard work.


Oh, I very much disagree. Human progress is the means and happiness is the end. If I could make everyone on Earth happy till the end of their lives and then humanity would be extinct, I would do it. Future possible happiness is not worth the downside, and of course there's nothing else out there to progress toward.

Pogo said...

It is only in the modern era that people began to expect happiness in their lifetime. This effort is largely misplaced and fruitless.

That said, I would posit that the lack of money is the root of much evil.

$12K annually provides a subsistence living, and a certain level of happiness. But it also gives an anxiety, a fear that the next car problem or furnace issue or illness will wipe you out. That doesn't happen as often with higher incomes. But the feeling of security is different than the feeling of happiness, the latter of which is a transient state at best.

That is, viewing life as suffering, one finds joy in brief happinesses and grace. A life spent towards a goal of happiness is a fool's errand.

Eli Blake said...

Happiness is not the end goal.

The end goal is human progress. And that requires hard work. Personally - I'd like to see the advancement of the human race reach the point...


That sounds positively chilling.

Somewhere like a cross between Orwell, Dr. Mengele and Pol Pot.

Word verification: idlmaddd

To idle oneself is to go mad?

Kurt said...

When I was in grad. school (one of those humanities students that the pooka refers to) and living on about $8,000 a year, I enjoyed having the free time to read and write and reflect, but not the pressure of having to study for comps or finish my dissertation or so on, and certainly not the pressure of having to figure out how to get by on $8,000 a year (this was during the 1990s). I was actually pretty good at getting by on that amount, much better than I would be now when I make several times what I did then. But I also felt trapped by my circumstances and my lack of savings and my uncertain future. I had friends whom I couldn't visit because I couldn't afford the expense of travelling to see them. I had interests and dreams that I had no money to pursue. I wouldn't have even had a car, but my parents gave me my father's old one to use. I wouldn't say I was unhappy, but I couldn't wait to move on from that phase of my life.

Elizabeth said...

If one's personal income is #12k, and that person is supporting herself and possibly others on that income, then there's no pointy-headed, Marie Antoinette-authored study in the world that can convince me that that person is not afflicted by worries and stress over how to get by. I don't make a very high income, and I know how deeply I'm affected by debt, by juggling things so that the outflow from my bank account doesn't surpass the income twice monthly (and none in the summer, unless I get a course to teach.)

I don't know anyone in my income range that isn't worried about getting by, and having enough to live on in our old age. And my city is sadly full of people that make around $12k a year; we all have pleasure in our work and families and friends, but to be happy, but that doesn't mean we wouldn't be a great deal more at ease with a bit more money to rely on.

Elizabeth said...

Money doesn't buy happiness, but poverty pretty much guarantees misery. Pat, maybe you can get a grant to study that. Your anecdote about the alternator was familiar to me. That's exactly my point. When you live on the edge of one major expense--an illness, a repair--spinning your life downward to debt, there's a lurking anxiety, with or without happiness in other quarters of your experience.

Matthew R. Ailey said...

I think another important point is that some people truly love long hours and are happier when working from 8 am to 10 pm. I am certainly one of these people...

At the end of the day, I've billed many more hours than the average person, feel like I've truly accomplished something during the day, and am ready to be driven home.

People are happy doing things they enjoy. In some cases, these things include working 14-hour days. If one runs on such a schedule, he or she most likely will have more "wealth" at the end of the day, as well.

David said...

I agree with Robin--it's questionable whether "happiness" can really be measured accurately by self-reporting.

I also wonder if the researcher bothered to try holding constant some obvious factors, like age. Maybe younger people make less, and are also more happy? One should never leap from correlation to causation without serious thought about alternate mechanisms that could explain the correlation.

AJD said...

Cheap shots at other professors: an Althouse speciality!

Sorry, Ann, but the prof did not make the $12,000 comment.(Did you read the article carefully?)

Which one of his actual statements do you find so implausible?

Answering that would require you to be fair to the man's words. And that wouldn't make for a "good" Althouse post, now would it?

WV: lameo

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

I didn't think my presentation of the linked article created the impression that the quote in the title was something Krueger said. If I'd thought it didn, I wouldn't have written it that way.

altoids1306 said...

12000 USD sounds about right to me. People who live in countries with an average per capita GDP of 10000~15000 USD are quite happy, myself included. Below 10000 USD and you start to run into some real inconvinences.

My problem with happiness studies, particularly as they pertain to personal income/wealth, is that they could be used as justification for extremely progressive wealth distrobution. Obviously, heavy taxation reduces incentive, which reduces the total productivity of the country.

So while it is fine to observe that an income beyond a certain level has no correlation with happiness, it does not follow that taking money from those who make more than that level does not decrease total happiness.

altoids1306 said...

12000 USD sounds about right to me. People who live in countries with an average per capita GDP of 10000~15000 USD are quite happy, myself included. Below 10000 USD and you start to run into some real inconvinences.

My problem with happiness studies, particularly as they pertain to personal income/wealth, is that they could be used as justification for extremely progressive wealth distrobution. Obviously, heavy taxation reduces incentive, which reduces the total productivity of the country.

So while it is fine to observe that an income beyond a certain level has no correlation with happiness, it does not follow that taking money from those who make more than that level does not decrease total happiness.

jult52 said...

Very nice post by Robin Goodfellow.

mariam said...

"Wow! Stupidity strikes again. Why whould we trust anything in this article when they don't even know the difference between wealth and income?"

Maybe they did mean 12K wealth and not income. As in, "no, you don't need to be a billionaire to be happy; you'd be happy as long as you could cover your cost of living and maybe knock back an extra thousand to invest or save every month." That's not too silly.

Pogo said...

I find studies like this disturbing, as they could be used to support two extreme (but opposing) positions:
1. Welfare spending above $12K is unnecessary because it does not result in increased happiness.
or
2. All wealth above $12K should be confiscated and redistributed. (I note the philosopher Peter Singer actually put the limit at $30K/year.)

Both are idiotic conclusions. I'm more in agreement with Robin. How many Happiness units can be purchased for $100? Is partial happiness just hemi- demi- happiness, or is it on the metric scale, and called centihappiness? Is the "3 Happiness" Chinese takeout a good gold standard for measurement?

As Ren & Stimpy used to sing: Happy Happy Joy Joy

Seven Machos said...

Alan Kreuger is a charlatan. Here is a guy who a few years ago did a "study" purporting to show that increases in the minimum wage do not affect employment. Hence, raising the minimum wage will not affect employment levels. (http://www.uvm.edu/~vlrs/doc/min_wage.htm)

Now he wants to say that having more money does not affect happiness.

Geez, Al, DOES ANYTHING AFFECT ANYTHING ELSE AT ALL?

How do these guys get jobs at Princeton. I want a job at Princeton.

the pooka said...

The study mentioned is here.

(As an aside: I suppose that makes Danny Kahneman, Norbert Schwartz, and the rest "charlatans" too, yes?...)

Note that:

- The authors are sensitive to the possible problems with measuring happiness,

- While the article doesn't distinguish income vs. wealth, it does discuss relative versus absolute income,

- The article summarizes a bunch of literature, including multivariate studies that control for demographics, and

- Their discussion of the wealth/time tradeoff is one of several possible explanations they offer for the relatively flat wealth/happiness curve.

All in all, it seems like a pretty good piece of social science. And, in fact, Ann's point fits nicely with the article's: that a combination of comfortable wealth/income, time for leisure activities, and a rewarding work environment -- all things profs generally have -- is a reliable route to being happy.

Atticus said...

Rating happiness is impossible. Am I happier with less responsibility or am I happier with better friends? Was I unhappy because my boyfriend cheated on me or was I unhappy because my job didn't pay enough? Am I happier because I have more money or was I happier when I had so much less to worry about? Too many variables and no real way to recall a previous time accurately.

Abraham Lincoln said, "A man is about as happy as he makes up his mind to be." I'll go with that.

Seven Machos said...

Why raise the minimum wage if people are perfectly happy being poor? Krueger can't have it both ways.

Henry said...

Laura at Apt. 11D has circled over this topic on her blog a few times and generated some great discussion. Her take on both saving money and feeling happy:

...have friends who make less money than you. Poor friends good. Rich friends bad.

Certainly the article is a hodge-podge of context-less numbers and context-less quotes, but if the writer really does mean to write "$12,000 a year in wealth," that's not such a bad index. That's meeting your needs and maxing out your 401K.

Where the happiness experts really sound confused to me is in drawing conclusions about happiness and money over time. Same as it ever was as David Byrne might say, but a 10% bonus right now is a lot difference than making 10% more than people 10 years ago.

Of course, I'd rather by lucky than rich.

Pogo said...

Pooka, thanks for the link.

It's even worse than I suspected. They lump "good mood", "experienced affect," "life satisfaction," and other "subjective well-being measures" into "self-reported global happiness". It's junk, junk, junk.

This is why social science is rightly mocked. It attempts to give unit measures to things inherently unmeasurable.

How do I love thee, let me count the ways. 34.7% of allocated leisure, and 16.5% of work and commute time do I love thee. (p < 0.001)

the pooka said...

This is why social science is rightly mocked. It attempts to give unit measures to things inherently unmeasurable.

One of the first things a scientist learns is that some things are more accurately measureable than others. The fact that something is hard to measure accurately (e.g., speciation, or interstellar distances) is not, by itself, a reason not to study it, or not to attempt to do so as scientifically as possible.

Leaving aside that most of social science studies things that are eminently (in some cases, perfectly) measureable, the study adopts a common practice: If something is difficult to measure, measure it a number of different ways, and see if the different measures correlate. In this case, the reported results are consistent: no matter how it is measured, wealth and happiness aren't as strongly correlated as most would be led to believe.

Beyond this, am I to believe you think that measures such as this are meaningless? That is, that asking someone whether or not they are happy will provide no information at all about their actual happiness? If so, I'll remember this the next time a survey asks whether the respondents are politically liberal or conservative. And, I'll be sure to answer randomly at my next annual physical, when the doctor asks "So, how are you feeling?"

Simon said...

Noumenon said...
"I live on about $15,000 a year pretax and it buys me individual lodging, shower, electricity, a computer, games, and a great variety of food, so that seems like a very reasonable level for satisfaction to me."

Yes, but as Pogo pointed out, that is subsistence. You have no margin for error. With little capacity to save, if you lose your job and cannot get a new one immediately, you're screwed. If your car breaks down and you rely on your car, you're screwed. If you get cancer and are faced with paying $25,000 for treatment, you're screwed. In fact, if any ripple of inconvenient reality should impinge on your present bubble, it will capsize and very possibly sink you.

My wife and I make a comfortable living (more than $12,000, at any rate), and it buys our family a nice, comfortable house in a nice, comfortable suburb, with a nice, comfortable minivan. But all-in-all, once all expenses are paid, we aren't saving a huge amount. About seven months ago, one of our cats nearly died, and was saved by paying for a new wing at Purdue Animal Hospital (I exaggerate, but it was over $1000). Were that not bad enough, about one month later, our minivan made a noise like a cow being violently sick, and dropped like a rock. The dealership said "well, chaps, it looks like the camshaft is broken, and your warranty just expired a few months ago. You need a new engine. That'll be $4000, please - and while you're at it, we'll take $200 for determining and delivering to you this marvellous piece of news." Now, like most Americans, we rely on our vehicle. Unlike most Americans, we don't like being in debt, particularly to credit card companies, so the prospect of renting a car for a couple of weeks and paying as much for a new engine as we paid for the van, on top of a thousand bucks of unexpected outlay was physically sickening. As it turned out, we got a new engine for half that price, but $2000 is only a good deal if you have $2000. If you have $0, then $2000 may as well be $4000 for all the difference it makes. For me, the difference between making a subsistence income and making a comfortable living was that when a crisis came, I didn't have to ask the vet to wait while I checked my pockets for change (or to choose between saving the cat's life or eating that month); it meant that we could fix our vehicle and thus not have to walk several miles to the office every day.

This researcher is full of shit, and so is anyone else who makes a similar claim who makes more than $12,000. This is "automatic revocation of tennure" stuff.

Pogo said...

Re: "am I to believe you think that measures such as this are meaningless? That is, that asking someone whether or not they are happy will provide no information at all about their actual happiness?"
Yes, I think these measures provide no information at all.

"If so, I'll remember this the next time a survey asks whether the respondents are politically liberal or conservative."
I agree with that plan , but for different reasons. I always lie to pollsters, just on principle. The poll is almost meaningless. The actual vote is the true measure.

"And, I'll be sure to answer randomly at my next annual physical, when the doctor asks "So, how are you feeling?" No need to be so foolish. Just recognize you cannot tell your doctor "Oh, I'm feeling double-plus good, or 78% good, or 8 on the Highland scale." The unit measure is meaningless. The feeling of well-being is also inherently non-quantifiable. Any attempt to do so means I don't bother reading the study beacuse, by definition, it's junk science and a waste of time.

Theo Boehm said...

"...comfortable wealth/income, time for leisure activities, and a rewarding work environment...."

Nice work if you can get it. To live a modest middle-class family life in or near the major coastal cities starts with an income pushing six figures. And "leisure activities" are a bad joke.

"Rewarding work environment"? Let's see...how about the screen full of nasty e-mails to start the day, the tension-filled supervisors' "team meeting" at 10:30, the calls and e-mails to and from vendors trying to get them to do better work, the hour trying to get useful information out of the MRP system, the lunch spent setting up a machine the non-English-speaking new hire can't fathom, the early afternoon spent teaching him to run the machine and doing most of the work myself, the 4:00 ISO 9001 team meeting, and, at 5:30 a couple of hours re-writing and debugging a program that MUST be ready to run on the 4-axis gantry mill in the morning? Oh, and the end of the quarter's three days away, and we're $106,000 behind in sales. Can't we speed up shipments TODAY!?? I bumble home at 7:30 or 8:00, just in time to eat some leftovers from dinner and kiss the kids goodnight. Then, maybe I can do some CAD drawings on my laptop to analyze some nasty tolerance issues (metal-to-metal tolerance, that is). Maybe I'll get five hours sleet tonight. That's my "rewarding work environment" day after day, and I suspect--no, I know--for millions of others in this country trying to hang on to something like a middle-class life. I'm not complaining, because I DO have work--too much of it--but the alternative is the Abyss, not some Simple Life.

There is no Walden to move to and build a cabin for us quiet desperation types. We're too busy making the money to buy the axe that Thoreau wants to borrow. Our "experiment in living" is to see if we can pay the bills next month. And it is obscene to suggest that $12,000 a year could mean anything but hellish poverty to almost anyone condemmed to live on it.

Simon said...

"Nice work if you can get it. To live a modest middle-class family life in or near the major coastal cities starts with an income pushing six figures."

Yes, but if you choose to live in or near the major coastal cities, you're not really in a position to complain about the price you pay. That's what big cities cost to live in, and if you're someone for whom the lifestyle has some kind of weird appeal -- and if so, my deepest sympathies -- then you pay what it costs. Otherwise, feel free to move out here. Here in suburban Indiana, a six figure income will sustain more than comfortable lifestyle; it's outright cushy.

Pogo said...

Re; "We're too busy making the money to buy the axe that Thoreau wants to borrow."

That's a damn funny line, Theo.

Freeman Hunt said...

When I first started working, I made about $16,000 a year. I appreciated the chance to make some money and get my foot in the door, but I was certainly less happy then. Being short on cash is stressful.

I think that additional funds result in no greater happiness once you reach the point at which additional funds only affect the magnitude of your discretionary disposable income. At that point more money is fun, but you don't have any money-related stress for it to address.

Theo Boehm said...

Pogo, thanks!

Simon, I know! It's too damned expensive here...or in New York or LA or the Bay Area. But it's not really a choice any more for many of us. I am at the high point of my career (i.e., "too old to get another job"), and the kids are at an age where relocating would be horrible for them. In fact, I did seriously consider moving to Indiana some years ago, but it didn't work out, so here we are. Boston and environs used to be cheap, but I feel like a lobster in a pot that has been oh-so-slowly brought to a boil. I'm cooked and didn't notice how it happened.

My company's having trouble hiring and retaining employees because of the high cost. I frankly don't know what's going to happen when no one can afford to live here, a situation that's rapidly approaching. Maybe we'll all just retire to Indiana and grow beans next to our cabins. You certainly can't do that in Massachusetts any more.

Buddy Larsen said...

Well, I could've been tickled pink on subsistance pay, if I hadn't goofed and had children. College is like the highwayman--stand and deliver, whatever you got, hand it over.

Wickedpinto said...

12K a year would suit me fine. I don't spend money, and I know how to spend it when I do.

The thing is. . . .

Well.....

Those people have to FRIGGEN WORK THEIR ASSES OFF TO EARN ONLY 12K A YEAR!!!

If I got 3 months vacation, I would never endure 12K a year, NEVER!

You can live off of 12K a year, I've done so, in fact, I've done so with much less, but I will not work for that amount (40X52/12,000.)

That is the "arrogance of America" but the thing is, America might make a lot of money, but it ain't that friggen cheap.

12 grand can hold me for about 2 1/2 years, I know, cuz I had 8K stored up, and made it about 19 months, without missing a bill (I had bills) or rent, or even IP. phone, I didn't care about at that time.

the thing is? I didn't do a single friggen thing for myself or anyone else. The fact that I couldn't buy gifts for my family or friends, was the greatest soul stealing experience I have ever gone through, the fact that I couldn't by gifts for friends who didn't buy gifts for me, made me feel like a dreg, and at those times that I couldn't offer up money to a good cause, because I was too busy taking care of myself, made me feel like the lowest form of compost.

12K a year, after a years worth of work? Thats for highschool students, MINIMUM!!! 22K is my opinion, but you have to earn it. I haven't earned it cuz I'm something of a lunatic, but I could pull in more than 40 if I ever offered one thought to money other than how many books it could buy, and how many people I could get to shut up about me "not living up to my potential" But I don't care about either.

I have a library card, and a brother, a mother, a father, and many friends who love me.

So, I've chosen to be crazy :)

Wade_Garrett said...

I think that the study is broadly correct to say that not enough attention is paid to the non-monetary aspects of work, but the $12,000 per year number is just too low. I have a lot of friends who're 26 year old first-year associates who hate their lives and earn almost $150,000. My one friend tells me he was happier in the Peace Corps. What does that say? Working 80 hours a week in a suit and tie and living in take-out chinese food doesn't suit everybody.

If all it took was $12,000 a year to get through life, then that would be fine. But when you consider the enormous costs of education and health care, NO salary, other than those of movie stars and professional athletes, seems sufficient to protect against all of the expenses that might come your way.

Furthermore, some white-collar people might be able to pro-rate their salaries out to $12,000 a year and say what they would do with all of the extra time. To a maid or a janitor who has to work 40 hours a week or more to earn that money, the quality of life issues that the professor so emphasizes will just not be available.

Buddy Larsen said...

More power to ya, wickedpinto, and I mean that literally. We gotta slow down a tad. OTOH, a 4% unemployment rate means jobs for the most vulnerable of us, and we ain't gonna have a 4% unemployment rate without all of us spending up a storm.

PatCA said...

"I always lie to pollsters, just on principle."

Well, that's the truth for everybody, isn't it? Like the recent BBC poll that says all Brits despise us and our culture. They're not going to admit they love The Simpsons or our economic system. You say what you think you should say to make yourself look good--after all, we are under no obligation or penalty for truthfulness to pollsters.

Tibore said...

"Money doesn't buy happiness, but poverty pretty much guarantees misery."

Hear hear, Patca! Dead on. What was that line Paul Stanley said? "... all money makes possible is for you to stop worrying about money."? Then he follows it up with "Then you have freedom to live your life."

I think it's a mistake to read the study to mean "lack of money" equals "happiness", or that "abundance" of it equals "unhappiness". What money should give you are life choices and oppportunities, and it's the result of those that determine whether you're happy or not. But without a sufficient income level, you don't even have a shot at those opportunities or choices. As Patca points out, it's probably better to have the choices and opportunities and risk ending up miserable than not.

Johnny Nucleo said...

I didn't read the article because I hate newspaper science articles because they are always wrong. (Where the hell is the flying car? Where the hell is the cure for baldness? Where the hell is the porn on network TV?)

Are they saying money doesn't buy happiness? Of course money doesn't buy happiness. Everyone knows that. You have to be rich and stupid to be happy.

That was a joke, because I enjoy the jokes, but now for seriousness.

It's love, of course. We all know this. Love - I don't mean romantic love, I mean selflessness, the Mystery Thing - is the only thing that really makes human beings happy. Disgusting. Sappy. Blech. I hear you. I don't like it either, but that's the way it is.

Personally, I'd rather be rich.

Eli Blake said...

"I always lie to pollsters, just on principle."

They've got that measured too. That's one reason why they use a formula, rather than raw data, when they use exit polls to forecast the results of an election (the raw data invariably show Democrats doing better by about two percent than they do when the votes are counted, so apparently more Republicans feel this way than Democrats do). The formula has been fine tuned over decades so that they almost always make the right call (the 2000 election being the classic failure of an otherwise successful system).

Pogo said...

Re: "They've got that measured too. That's one reason why they use a formula..."

Now to change tactics: Lie, but only every other time! Polls are fun.

Buddy Larsen said...

The 2004 exit polls on the east coast had JFK2 winning BIG, way ahead of where he actually was. Exit polls have never been so wrong. Did anybody ever figger out how that happened?

Jim said...

Many of my very happy middle-class Brazilian friends in Rio live on $12,000 a year, which now corresponds to about R$2000 per month income, after taxes. At a tax rate of some 40%, a Brazilian who has that much to spend per month would have to earn over R$3000, placing him well within the top 1% of wage earners.

I myself live in both places, and I venture to say that life there is better in so many ways. Family and community are stronger. There are few police, and almost no morals police. You can buy booze 24/7 and drink it anywhere, anytime. A bottle of cacha├ža that costs $18 here costs $1.50 there. A can of beer in a bar is $0.75. Drugs are super cheap, and you don't need a prescription, saving you $100 or so in treatment if you pick up, say, Giardia.

There are few Fundamentalist Christianists messing with your sex life and censoring your American movies. There is no sales tax. There are no hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. Because they don't use corn syrup, even their Coke taste better, like it did in America some 40 years ago.

Curitiba, capital of Parana, is touted as the best run big city in the Americas, bar none. Americans need to get out more.

Truth be told, I wouldn't mind it if all those American materialists, who can't live on $12,000 per year, just stayed home!

Christy said...

Dickens has a Mr. Macawber in David Copperfield tell him "“If a man had twenty pounds a year for his income, and spent nineteen pounds, nineteen shillings and sixpence, he would be happy; but that if he spent twenty pounds one shilling he would be miserable….”

It is all about making choices we can live with. About looking ahead more than a day to what we want and working toward a goal. About avoiding peer pressure to get, ultimately, what we want. Our happiness lies more in our value systems than in our income. I firmly believe that after a certain basic amount, money doesn't make us happier. I'm just not sure what the amount is.

Kev said...

Johnny Nucleo--your flying car is here...