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What is the Link Between Economic Success and Happiness?

Updated: Jan 23, 2023

Yesterday I was left with the question: Is there an optimal level of success and peace? Although I expressed last week peace is a better long-term for fulfillment than happiness because of its longevity, most of the academic research focuses on happiness. So over the next three days we're focusing on the relationships between economic success and happiness, job title and happiness, and fame and happiness based on the idea of the American Dream (a white picket fence, a well-paying job and high social status) starting today with the link between economic success and happiness.

Economic Success and Happiness

Does more money make you happier? There’s a widely cited 2010 study on the intersection between wealth and happiness from Princeton University that found happiness is maximised at around $70,000-$75,000. Additionally, happiness expert Daniel Gilbert stated in his book Stumbling on happiness, which compiled his lifetime of research, stated the idea that money equals happiness is untrue but widespread because it’s good for society as a whole.

There is evidence that contradicts the idea money doesn’t equal happiness. Gilbert himself explained the idea that we tend to think we are happier when we perceive ourselves as doing better than average. A 2021 study from PNAS has also contradicted this evidence showing happiness has a positive relationship to wealth, with no upper limit. Finally, research published in the American Psychogical organisation found being from higher social classes enhanced subjective well-being because it fulfills psychological needs key to happiness like respect, autonomy and self-mastery.

I’m sure there’s an optimal point for success and peace, but it’s clear there’s no one size fits all. Using common sense, money doesn’t seem to be a barrier to happiness after a certain point, and external factors are the problem if someone feels less fulfilled after having an above-average income. In summary, the evidence on whether money makes people happier isn't clear, but it definetly doesn't inhibit it. So go chase that coin and make sure you follow me on the links below so you're notified tomorrow when we look at the link between job title and happiness.

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