We hear it everywhere whether we realize it or not; in songs, movies, and TV shows. Money buys happiness, and unfortunately this conception is a huge part of our culture. Take the movie, “Slumdog Millionaire”, for example. Jamal, a smart man who was born into extreme poverty, wins twenty million rupees, gets his dream girl shortly after, and the movie ends as we are left feeling as though we will never be as happy as Jamal. There are endless examples like this and it is the most prominent in music these days, especially rap.
Poverty does not define a persons happiness. Professor Mariano Rojas from Mexico’s Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, conducted a national survey asking people questions about their incomes and subjective questions about their life satisfaction. Most people answered that their lives were satisfactory, but in relation to income, the results were surprising. According to the study, “only 24 percent of people classified as ‘poor’ rated their life satisfaction as low. Furthermore, 18 percent of people in the ‘non-poor’ category also reported low life satisfaction”. This difference is so low that it is not possible for us to deem one economic class happier than the other.
However, there has been a study conducted by Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School that does not exactly support these findings. Apparently, the more money you have, the happier you will be, until after you reach making an annual salary of 75,000 dollars. Once one makes $75,000 a year, a persons happiness level will remain constant. So, why doesn’t the government just raise everyones salaries to $75,000? We’d be the happiest country in the world! It sounds so simple, but after looking further into the study I learned that there are two types of happiness a person experiences. There is the current emotional mood, day-to-day, happiness and then there is a more static kind of happiness that depends on your overall life satisfaction. Apparently, the $75,000 rule only applies to the latter. So, just because a person is making $75,000 annually does not mean that they will all sunshine and smiles everyday.
After reading through the second study, I think that the study conducted by Mariano Rojas was poorly conducted. In his study, he concludes that life satisfaction is a persons happiness, but how can one really measure happiness? Although the second study also tries to measure happiness, it at least splits it into two categories and describes the two. I’m not sure if we will ever know if money buys happiness or not until happiness can be more scientifically measured. What do you all think?
Rojas M. Enhancing Poverty-Abatement Programs: a Subjective Well-Being Contribution. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 2009; 4 (2)