Finals got you down? Try bidding and winning something on eBay. There’s nothing like a new piece of ski gear or favorite team memoribilia to lift your spirits. And it looks like there is economic evidence to suggest that money can indeed buy happiness.
Arthur C. Brooks, associate professor at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Affairs, explains “economists aren’t so sure” about the idea that money can’t buy happiness. “They note that people with a lot of money tend to express a higher subjective happiness than people with very little. According data from surveys by the National Opinion Research Center, for example, people in the top fifth of income earners are about 50% more likely to say they are “very happy” than people in the bottom fifth, and only about half as likely to say they are “not too happy.”
Not only can money buy happiness, but there is evidence to suggest a correlation between increases government taxes and spending and decrease in overall happiness.
Perhaps you’re unconvinced. In fact there is another explanation for unchanging happiness levels over time which is rather less supportive of income redistribution. As incomes rise, so generally do levels of government revenues and spending, and there is evidence that these forces work against personal income on the overall level of happiness. For example, a $1,000 increase in per capita income is associated with a one-point decrease in the percentage of Americans saying they are “not too happy.” At the same time, a $1,000 increase in government revenues per capita is associated with a two-point rise in the percentage of Americans saying they are not too happy. In other words, not only can money buy happiness, but it may be that the government can tax it away as well.
But beyond earning, taxing and spending, there is an even clearer link between money and happiness: charity. The evidence is unambiguous that donating money (and time) is one of the best ways to buy happiness. People who donate to charity are 40% more likely to say they are “very happy” than non-donors. Psychologists have even tested whether charity makes people happy using randomized, controlled experiments — the same procedure used for testing pharmaceuticals, except that, instead of administering a drug to one group and a placebo to the other, researchers randomly assign one group to act charitably toward another. The results are clear: Givers of charity earn substantial mental and physical health rewards, even more than do the recipients of charity — empirical evidence that it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive.
Though money may be in short supply, there is good news here. The type of happiness he is referring to can be “bought” with service. Whether you are busy with finals or busy with work or busy prepping for the next powder, take a few minutes and give a little. This type of investment pays happiness dividends.