Money & happiness
More data on how much we make and how happy we are. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
I’d like to share some more data from the Reader Happiness Survey today, focusing on the correlation between self-reported income and self-reported happiness.
(If you haven’t answered the survey, but you’d like to, please do! Find it here.)
First, a few more stats:
Overall, we have just over 140,000 subscribers. About 45,000 people read any given edition of Understandably, including roughly 35,000 of you who read it almost every single day.
Of that group, 2,157 took the full survey. I think that’s quite good, especially considering how long it was!
Average self-reported income: $154,027 per year. (More on this below. By the way, the average income per U.S. household in 2021 was $79,900.)
Average self-reported happiness (scale of 1 to 10, exact wording of the question is below): 8.2 out of 10.
Other things I learned:
91 percent of readers are in the United States. (It’s uncanny how consistent this has been, going all the way back to the first 5,000 readers.)
All 50 states were represented in the survey (plus DC, the USVI, and Puerto Rico), along with at least 39 other countries.
Canada accounted for 4 percent; the UK and Australia each accounted for about half a percent.
Sort of related—and honestly, I’m not sure this tells us a lot, but I might as well share—I asked the question, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you like where you live?” Average answer: 8.6.
OK, previously, I’ve tried to share data about correlation between people’s self-reported happiness and their number of good friends, their marital status, their satisfaction at work, and other factors.
Today, we’ll do self-reported annual income. I think it’s good to remember (or see for the first time) how I worded the happiness question. This was the very first question in the survey, before anything else:
Again, across more than 2,000 submissions, the average answer was 8.2.
As far as income, we have readers who reported that they have zero income, and readers who said they bring in over $1 million per year. Of course, income isn’t necessarily a proxy for wealth—which might provide for even more interesting insights. But, it’s the best I could figure out how to do on a survey like this.
On the chart that follows, you’ll see how many replies we had for each band of income and the average happiness across that band. For example, we had 40 people who reported having zero income, who reported an average 7.15 out of 10 on the happiness ranking.
Here’s the same data, only in a special “Bill Has Fun With Graphs” edition. The blue columns represent happiness for each band of income; the faded purple line in the background represents number of people who reported having each level of income:
You might recall that about a dozen years ago, a Nobel-winning Princeton economist and psychologist teamed up to do a study that concluded—at least as it was summarized in a zillion blog posts and articles—that once you get past $75,000, more income doesn't lead to greater happiness.
The $75,000 figure would be closer to about $100,000 with inflation since the data was collected in 2008. And, there are all kinds of analyses saying the study has been oversimplified and misunderstood.
But, check it out: It sure seems like that’s close to the story from the Reader Happiness Survey, given that we saw a big jump in self-reported happiness between readers earning between $50,000 and $75,000 and those earning really anywhere between $75,000 and $150,000.
Anyway, I could come up with all kinds of weird theories and explanations for why people answered the way they did. But frankly, I think we’d rather hear from you.
Can money buy happiness? Can it at least buy the lack of unhappiness? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
7 other things worth knowing today
Millions of student loan borrowers will be closer to debt forgiveness after a number of changes the U.S. Department of Education plans to make to the lending system. (CNBC)
The Washington Post revealed the identity of the person behind the wildly influential Twitter account Libs of TikTok. This was basically Topic #1 all day long among a certain type of “political people” on Twitter for the last 24 to 36 hours or so. I’m very curious to know how many Understandably readers have an opinion, and how many could hardly care less. (WashPost)
In an unusual move, President Biden signed the papers confirming Ketanji Brown Jackson's appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the fact that she can't actually take the bench until Justice Stephen Breyer retires. (Bloomberg)
Uber, Disney, virtually every airline—they all ended their requirements to wear masks. Separately—maybe someone in the Biden administration reads this newsletter (?) because the White House now says it will appeal the federal court decision on masks, due to exactly the concern I shared yesterday: “the long-term risk of [the] CDC’s authority being undermined.” (Yahoo News, WashPost via Twitter)
Shawnee State University will pay a professor $400,000 in damages and attorney's fees to settle a lawsuit over not using a student’s preferred pronoun. (Dispatch.com)
A Kentucky man with an anxiety disorder asked his employer not to celebrate his birthday because it would trigger a panic attack. When the company ignored his request and threw a party anyway, he got upset, and was later fired for his reaction. Now he's been awarded $450,000 for wrongful termination. (NBC News)
Audi’s new concept car: a self-driving ‘lounge on wheels’ for city travelers. (CNBC)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Unsplash. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.
No, I don't think that money can buy happiness. It does buy the ability to focus on something other than whatever it is that makes you unhappy, though how long that effect lasts is probably directly related to how unhappy you are and why.
I’m not happy because I make more money I make more money because I choose to be happy !