People of different incomes experience happiness differently

  • People of different incomes experience happiness differently

December 22, 2017

Wealth doesn't bring happiness, but it does change how a person experiences it, according to a new study by Paul Piff, assistant professor of psychology and social behavior.

Higher income people tend to have positive emotions more focused on themselves, such as contentment, pride and amusement. Lower income people have positive emotions associated with others, such as compassion and love.

"These findings indicate that wealth is not unequivocally associated with happiness," says Piff. "What seems to be the case is that your wealth predisposes you to different kinds of happiness. While wealthier individuals may find greater positivity in their accomplishments, status and individual achievements, less wealthy individuals seem to find more positivity and happiness in their relationships, their ability to care for and connect with others."

"Poverty heightens people's risks for a slew of negative life outcomes, including worsened health," he continues. "Wealth doesn't guarantee you happiness, but it may predispose you to experiencing different forms of it — for example, whether you delight in yourself versus in your friends and relationships. These findings suggest that lower-income individuals have devised ways to cope, to find meaning, joy and happiness in their lives despite their relatively less favorable circumstances."

Piff's research was featured in numerous media outlets: CNN, The Independent, iNews, United Press International, Bustle, The Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, the Deccan Chronicle, Indian Express, ZME Science, The San Francisco Chronicle, The International Business Times, and Reader's Digest.