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Sun Feb 10, 2013, 08:34 PM

Money Changes Everything

Depending on when you’re reading this column, economists have a pretty good guess as to what kind of mood you’re in. If it’s Sunday, you’re almost certainly happier than if you’re catching it on a Monday. Either way, there’s a good chance you’re in a lousy mood if it’s 7 a.m. (Sorry!) You’ll be happier around lunchtime, sadder at 2 p.m. but should perk up by 8 in the evening.

And economists will definitely have a theory about your happiness based on where you live. In collaboration with psychologists, a number of respected economists have spent much of the past decade or so mapping our levels of happiness across borders and daytime hours. Angus Deaton, an economist at Princeton University, is helping shape the movement to incorporate subjective measures of emotions into serious economic analysis. The goal is to use this new data to inform more traditional measures, like G.D.P. or the unemployment rate, and to influence government policy. Or at least that’s the idea.

Happiness quantification sounds a bit wishy-washy, sure, and through a series of carefully administered surveys across the globe, economists and psychologists have certainly confronted a fair number of sticky issues around how to measure, and even define, happiness. Still, some of the data make lots of anecdotal sense. Given that Nevada was ground zero for the housing bust, it’s not surprising that its citizens are less happy than Coloradans. Other findings, though, are more opaque. Why does western Long Island score several points higher on the happiness scale than most of Brooklyn? (Does being richer make you feel better than being cooler?) Why do Filipinos, who live in a relatively poor country, report such positive emotions?

Though still unrefined, happiness quantification has come quite a long way since 1974, when a University of Southern California economist named Richard Easterlin published an important paper that put the field on the map. His conclusion, known as the Easterlin paradox, stated that people do not become happier as they get richer. Around the same time, the Kingdom of Bhutan (population 738,000; average income, around $5,800) also began plans to measure what it called gross national happiness. These ideas might have had an impact, but nobody paid attention. “The general reaction of economists,” Easterlin told me, “was: ‘This is just subjective testimony that nobody puts any credit in.’ ”


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groovedaddy Feb 2013 OP
roberthespinosa Feb 2013 #1

Response to groovedaddy (Original post)

Wed Feb 13, 2013, 04:22 AM

1. Money can't buy happiness but happiness can buy money.

I believe that health is wealth. If your health is good, you're wealthy, and cash cures most all of the other problems in life.

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