Too much of a good thing may be wonderful, but it turns out that when it comes to money, more of it doesn't make the rich happier. But lack of money does make the poor sadder.
Researchers from Michigan State University and University of British Columbia studied a regular day in the lives of people from across the income strata, and found that the rich generally don't find their daily lives more full or satisfying than the average person.
They found "no trace of a relationship between income and happiness,” writing that “this finding, however, dovetails with recent theory and research showing that wealth may undermine people’s ability to savor positive events, largely canceling out the happiness benefits of higher income.” Apparently, the experiences and possessions readily available to the rich render them easily bored.
However, while an abundance of money doesn't make a person happier, money can reduce sadness — for those who don't have enough.
It's easier to feel ground down by life's problems when you have less income. For example, a Princeton study found that among divorced respondents, over half of those who made less than $1,000 a month reported feeling sad or stressed on a given day. That dropped to 24 percent among those making $3,000 or more.
Common sense dictates that lack of money means fewer options for dealing with daily life. If a rich person's heating goes out or gets a toothache, it can be an annoyance, while for a poor person it can be a crisis.
But when it comes to the sadness of poverty, there's likely more to it than crisis management, writes Elizabeth Bruenig of the New Republic. She points to outcomes from "The Hidden Injuries of Class” by sociologists Jonathan Cobb and Richard Sennett. They conducted interviews with poor workers and found that the poor bore their situation like "badges of inner ability" that felt unfair but impacted their self image. In other words, their poverty made them feel bad about themselves. "That is the injury of class in day-to-day existence, it is a tangled relationship of denied freedom and dignity infinitely more complex than a resentment of ‘what other people are doing to me,’” the authors wrote.
Rather than feeling jealous, the poor tended to feel inadequate. "Poor people seem rather ready to identify their own shortcomings — real or imagined, fairly or unfairly acquired — as the source of their lesser control and dignity," writes Bruenig.