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How Much Happiness Money Will Buy

An interesting review of the scientific literature from The Associated Press:

People’s emotional well-being — happiness — increases along with their income up to about $75,000, researchers report in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For folks making less than that, said Angus Deaton, an economist at the Center for Health and Wellbeing at Princeton University, “Stuff is so in your face it’s hard to be happy. It interferes with your enjoyment.”

Deaton and Daniel Kahneman reviewed surveys of 450,000 Americans conducted in 2008 and 2009 for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index that included questions on people’s day-to-day happiness and their overall life satisfaction.

Happiness got better as income rose but the effect leveled out at $75,000, Deaton said. On the other hand, their overall sense of success or well-being continued to rise as their earnings grew beyond that point.

“Giving people more income beyond 75K is not going to do much for their daily mood … but it is going to make them feel they have a better life,” Deaton said in an interview.

Not surprisingly, someone who moves from a $100,000-a-year job to one paying $200,000 realizes an improved sense of success. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are happier day to day, Deaton said.

So just how many American workers make this happiness threshold? About 53 million out of 120 million tax filers in 2008.

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