Money Buys Happiness… To an Extent


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?

Kristen Robertson


Rojas M. Enhancing Poverty-Abatement Programs: a Subjective Well-Being ContributionApplied Research in Quality of Life, 2009; 4 (2),9171,2019628,00.html

5 thoughts on “Money Buys Happiness… To an Extent

  1. Kelli Nicole Ross

    Considering we live in a world where everything you have is virtually obtained through money, it’s hard to say that money doesn’t make you happy to some extent. I don’t think many people realize that there are people out there who go without so much that yes, having so money would bring them extreme happiness, or at least put them in a position to find that happiness. Of course not every poor person is unhappy, family and having a social life that brings you happiness is important, but much of their struggles come from the mere fact that they can’t afford many things, sometimes even necessities any person would need to live comfortably. Happiness comes from a number of different aspects we need in our lives and these aspects are a little more attainable for the richer population because they have a better means of going about them. For instance, the rich have more access to things like good health care and housing. This article talks a little bit about the issue of how it feels to have money vs. not having much -> It sometimes sound kind of shallow, but money makes a huge difference in the life you live and it’s more than just being able to buy nice things.

  2. Patrick Emil Jackson

    “Does money but happiness?” This is a very interesting question that almost everyone contemplates at one point or another. I though that in addition to investigating the money-happiness connection with just individuals, it may be interesting to look at this relationship on a large scale. After a quick Google search, I got reading on something called the Easterlin paradox – a theory named after the University of Southern California professor Richard Easterlin. He claimed that while rich people are happier than poor people, rich countries are not happier than poor countries, and as countries got richer, they did not get happier. To evaluate this theory, the University of Michigan professor, Betsey Stevenson, examined the Gallup World Poll, of 155 countries covering 95% of the world’s population. He concluded that rich countries are actually happier than poorer ones. While I personally don’t think that money buys happiness, an individual’s response to “quality of life” questions, may fluctuate over the course of time. Because the study conducted by Mariano Rojas used a survey as a means to measure life satisfaction, response bias will be an inevitable factor. A person’s response may depend on a variety of fluctuating factors, for example, how the economy is doing. The inability to control for similar confounding variables makes for less accurate results and an ongoing investigation. Overall, great post!

  3. Adam Greene

    I personally do not think that money buys happiness. I believe that happiness comes with having a family, doing what you love, and doing what makes you happy. For example, my father has told me stories about fellow colleagues who all have respected high-level paying jobs, hard time-consuming jobs, and no families. Yes, they are living the high life with good amounts of money, but they have nothing to come home to. I am not saying that those type of people can not be happy, but I think that if my father’s colleagues had families, they would be happier. On the other side, my father makes way less than those individuals, but he is happy because of his family that he gets to come home to every night. The biggest value that my parents have taught me is family and I will forever believe that family makes a person happy, not money.

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  4. Rachel M Arndt

    Measuring happiness is a difficult task. Some claim it’s the little things. Some work all their lives for the newest sports car. There is that saying that if a poor man lives in a shack, how poor is the man that lives in a home the size of 100 shacks? People can be chasing their tails all their lives to reach a successful/ happy point. However, money does seem like a tangible goal to focus on while we are trying to figure it all out!

  5. Michael I Barrett

    I’m sitting here wondering how to tell how much happier one person is than another. It makes sense that the more money somebody has, the greater the chance they will be happy. When you don’t have money, you can find yourself dreaming of things you would want to do if you had the chance, and money is essentially just freedom to do the things you want without any restrictions because you don’t have money. It might sounds superficial to say money buys happiness, but I think it’s very true.

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