Thursday, August 7, 2008

Evening Out the Happiness Train

I find happiness studies fascinating. According to Justin Wolfers at Freakonomics, happiness inequality in the United States is decreasing both among gender and race, despite increasing among those with education differences. The graph below shows how happiness inequality is generally decreasing in each of the groups listed.

Our key finding is that most of the movements in happiness inequality reflect changes in happiness inequality within even narrowly-defined demographic groups, and these changes are quite pervasive.

While this is a statistical explanation, it simply begs the question: What changes could have narrowed happiness inequality so pervasively? And juxtaposing our observed trends in happiness inequality with measures of income inequality — which have pretty much risen for the past four decades in a row — presents a real puzzle. How might we reconcile these trends?
I have my theories...perhaps happiness isn't as dependent on income as some would like to claim.

I believe that happiness is evening out because happiness has everything to do with life attitude. Richer people are becoming less happy because they have realized that money can't buy them the most important things is life, and they spend so much time concerned about their money that their enjoyment of it actually decreases. Poorer people are becoming more happy because they have growing access to all the fundamentals in life and often times their poorness is only poor in relative terms. People without money have been profoundly good at focusing on the more 'meaningful' elements of life throughout history.

The main idea??? HAPPINESS IS NOT DEPENDANT ON INCOME (beyond a basic needs/survival level). I get sick of hearing that assumption over and over again. Many people without money are the most satisfied and happy I have ever met.

When people do attempt to base their happiness on their real or perceived level of financial prosperity (or any other externality for that matter)---that is when they will never achieve the happiness that alludes them.

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