Can Money Buy Happiness?

Can Money Buy Happiness?

Though money can’t buy happiness, there is a correlation between one’s income and happiness.


The Princeton study looked at over 450,000 Americans and two kinds of happiness. As the Wall Street Journal writes, these kinds of happiness are a “day-to-day contentment (emotional well-being) and overall ‘life assessment,’ which means broader satisfaction with one’s place in the world.”


Happiness seems to plateau around an income of $75,000.

Happiness seems to plateau around an income of $75,000.

The study demonstrated that larger incomes don’t impact one’s day-to-day contentment, but influences people’s life assessment. It claims, “When plotted against log income, life evaluation rises steadily. Emotional well-being also rises with log income, but there is no further progress beyond an annual income of ~$75,000.”


Once one reaches an income of $75,000, happiness plateaus. Perhaps money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy life satisfaction. Lower incomes normally entail both lower life satisfaction levels and lower levels of day-to-day emotional wellbeing.


However, $75,000 isn’t some magical number; happiness is a very subjective concept. Therefore, one needs to adjust for costs specific to living in certain states, household sizes, amount of debt, and personal means by which one finds happiness.


For instance, a chart from the Council For Community And Economic Research showed that in New York, the benchmark for “life assessment happiness” is about $104,300, while in Mississippi, it is $64,000.


The Wall Street Journal, though, claims that New York’s happiness benchmark income is $163,000. Clearly, studies like this give rise to many inconsistencies. Attempting to understand the link between happiness and income (or happiness and anything, for that matter) may be a futile venture, but nonetheless, it is interesting to consider.


What do you think your own income for happiness would be? Let me know below, or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness

Ryan Lawless

Ryan Lawless is an undergraduate student at Fordham University. He studies English and Spanish as majors, and philosophy as a minor. He won the Margaret Lamb Writing to the Right-Hand Margin award for creative fictional writing, and has been published in Fordham's literary magazine The Ampersand, and its newspaper, The Observer. Ryan grew up in New York, but is also an Irish citizen. He enjoys fiddles, coffee, and music.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.