New research indicates that happier people actually earn more money. This comes as a result of a study of 10,000 Americans that showed that those who experienced more positive daily emotions and felt more satisfied with their lives while growing up, earned more income by age 29.
The scientists published their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences¹. The researchers drew on data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health between 1994 and 2008, which asked students whether statements like “You enjoyed your life” had been true during the last week. When the students were older, they were asked how satisfied they were with their whole life.
Students who described themselves as happier at ages 16 and 18 felt more satisfied with their lives at age 22 and earned more income at age 28. A one-point increase in life satisfaction on a scale of one to five at age 22 translated to $2,000 more in later earnings. The mean income was $35,000. Among siblings, a one-point increase in life satisfaction at age 22, compared to the mean of the family, translated to a $4,000 difference in earnings at age 29.
The analysis indicates that happiness isn’t something that’s linked to higher income, but it’s actually helping generate it. The scientists suggest that this could be because happier young adults are more likely to earn a college degree, get hired, promoted, be more optimistic and less neurotic. The analysis controlled for other factors, like education and self-esteem.
The study also found that those reporting a “very happy” adolescence earned an income about 10% above the average, while those who experienced a “profoundly unhappy” adolescence made about 30% less than the average income.
- De Neve, J.-E., et al., PNAS vol. 109, no. 49 19953-19958, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1211437109 (2012)