Money does not always buy happiness, but are richer people less happy in their daily lives? It depends on how you analyze income

Laura Kudrna, Kostadin Kushlev

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Do people who have more money feel happier during their daily activities? Some prior research has found no relationship between income and daily happiness when treating income as a continuous variable in OLS regressions, although results differ between studies. We re-analyzed existing data from the United States and Germany, treating household income as a categorical variable and using lowess and spline regressions to explore nonlinearities. Our analyses reveal that these methodological decisions change the results and conclusions about the relationship between income and happiness. In American and German diary data from 2010 to 2015, results for the continuous treatment of income showed a null relationship with happiness, whereas the categorization of income showed that some of those with higher incomes reported feeling less happy than some of those with lower incomes. Lowess and spline regressions suggested null results overall, and there was no evidence of a relationship between income and happiness in Experience Sampling Methodology (ESM) data. Not all analytic approaches generate the same results, which may contribute to explaining discrepant results in existing studies about the correlates of happiness. Future research should be explicit about their approaches to measuring and analyzing income when studying its relationship with subjective well-being, ideally testing different approaches, and making conclusions based on the pattern of results across approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Article number883137
Number of pages12
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Volume13
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2022

Keywords

  • happiness
  • measurement
  • time use
  • income
  • methodology

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