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Different Perspective on Happiness and Money
The study adds to a growing body of happiness research, but it is far from the last word on the topic.
In a paper presented in April at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., economists Betsey Stevenson, PhD, and Justin Wolfers, PhD, concluded that income does seem to be directly related to happiness, within societies and in personal terms.
Using polling data from both rich and poor countries, the researchers found personal satisfaction to be highest among people living in the richest countries. Within the countries, people with higher incomes tended to be happier than those with less money.
In the U.S., for example, 90% of people in households making at least $250,000 considered themselves "very happy," compared to just 42% of people in households with incomes below $30,000.
"We looked at 35 years' worth of data and found the relationship between income and happiness to be very strong," Stevenson tells WebMD.
The findings seem to contradict the idea that money is only related to happiness up to the point where basic needs are met.
The research by Stevenson and Wolfers shows that people living in households with annual incomes of $250,000 tended to report higher levels of personal satisfaction than people living in households with annual earnings of $120,000.
"We didn't look at the super-rich, so we can't really say if Bill Gates is that much happier than the rest of us," Stevenson says.
About 1% of American families have annual incomes of $250,000 or more, while just 5% earn $120,000 or more.