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Happiness is a Concept – Rich and Wealthy are not always Happier

High Income Earners Work More and Spend Less time on Fun

July 1st, 2006

Happiness is a Concept – Rich and Wealthy are not always Happier

US Bureau of Labor Statistics Website

We assume that money can fix everything and even make us happy, however a study from Princeton University has shown that increasing your income is an exaggerated illusion.

A survey conducted by researchers from Princeton University showed us that we tend to over rate the importance of income creating a state of well-being.  While Americans strive to prioritize income as a key to happiness the reality is that high income earners are not spending their free time in enjoyable ways.

John Stossel from ABC’s 20/20 would say that this is a myth that we believe that happiness comes with money.  We seek more income and money to make us happy.  If you have more income you will be happier right? Not according to what the researchers discovered.


The study was first reported in the June 30th issue of Science.  Economist Alan B. Krueger and psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, worked together with colleagues from three other universities to help rate people’s actual experiences instead of only how they feel their lives are as a whole.

"The belief that high income is associated with good mood is widespread but mostly illusory," the researchers wrote. "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."

Intresting enough having more income can stress people out as they do task in their free time that don’t make them happy.  The researchers created a tool to measure people’s day-to-day happiness called Day Reconstruction Method (DRM.)  This tool measure the “enjoyment scale” that the people that participated describing the previous day’s activities.


The researchers had 909 employed women in Texas complete surveys in 2004 in reference to how having a higher income made their lives happier.  Each day they would record in a short diary form their feelings about how the day went.

The women that participated were asked to report what percentage of time they spent in a bad mood the previous day.  They were also asked to guess how income level would affect the bad mood, would more income make a reduced bad mood or make it worse.

Women that earned less than $20,000 per year guessed that they would on average spend 32 percent more of their time in a bad mood compared to a women that earned $100,000 per year.  The reality is that the women that earned $20,000 or less a year actually reported have only 12 percent more of their time on a bad mood compared to women who earned over $100,000.  The income ideals of the low income women were over exaggerated.  Earning more money wasn’t as great of a reward in moods as they predicted.

The researchers wanted more evidence so they conducted the DRM survey with 810 women in Ohio in May of 2005.  This time the researchers wanted the participants to report their moment to moment experiences.  They were also asked to report their household income and also their overall satisfaction of their lives as a whole.  The results of the Ohio study reflected that the moment to moment happiness was less related to income than a person’s overall satisfaction with life.

"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."

To further investigate happiness with income the researchers looked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey to see how varying income levels spent their time.  The higher the income the more the people reported working, shopping, childcare, and other “obligatory” activities.  When people mad more income they spent less time on “passive leisure” activities, which include socializing and watching TV.

The government reports that men that made over $100,000 per year spent only 19.9 percent of their time on passive leisure compared to 34.7 percent spent on passive activities in men that made less than $20,000.   The results were similar for women. If women made over $100,000 they spent 19.6 percent time on passive leisure activities compared to 33.5 percent in women that made 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).

The researchers are continuing studies of their DRM surveys with men to further compare data on income and happiness.  They felt that focusing on women help to isolate a women’s viewpoint on income.

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Nicole Wilson
Best Syndication

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Copyright 2005 Best Syndication                   Last Updated Saturday, July 10, 2010 09:47 PM