Money can buy you happiness, and there is no limit to that connection — at least in the United States

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  • In the United States, the more money you earn, the happier you are, according to a new study published in PNAS.
  • Prior research suggested the positive effect of money waned after a person surpassed earning $US75,000 a year.
  • The new study found that, in the US, there is no limit to the positive effect money has on happiness.
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The saying “money doesn’t buy happiness” may be true for some, but a new study found it doesn’t apply as a general rule of thumb in the United States.

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found the more money someone has, the happier they tend to be — whether that means a pay-bump for a millionaire or someone on minimum wage.

Matthew A. Killingsworth, a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business senior fellow studying happiness, analysed data from 33,391 employed adults in the United States. Happiness was measured using experience-sampling reports on an app called “Track Your Happiness,” that recorded how people felt on average.

The app prompted users with mini-surveys that asked questions like, “how do you feel right now?” and “how satisfied with your life are you?”


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While previous research suggested income-related happiness stops increasing after a household makes $US75,000 a year, the new findings found there is no limit to how much money influences happiness.

Happiness and feelings of well-being increased in tandem with someone’s rising income level. The higher their income, the happier they reported to be on average.

Killingsworth said this correlation is likely due to the access money gives people to feel secure and choose their life path. “When you have more money, you have more choices about how to live your life,” Killingsworth told Medical Press.

In the United States, income means healthcare and access to housing

These findings may not be generalizable to a global population, as the entire sample is based in the United States.

The United States has the highest income inequality rate of all G7 nations, a group of industrialized countries including Canada, France, the United Kingdom, and Japan. That inequality is especially felt by communities of colour. The median income for Black Americans in 2020 was 61% of the median income for white people, according to Pew Research Centre.

The United States is the only industrialized country that does not have free healthcare coverage for all citizens. People have to get a job in order to get insurance, and even then might have copays to cover certain medical treatments.

Income also dictates many people’s access to healthy food options, safe housing, and well-funded school districts.