Happiness blog: Can Money Buy Happiness?

2013-09-24T00:00:00Z 2013-09-25T08:50:56Z Happiness blog: Can Money Buy Happiness?by Lydia Breunig Arizona Daily Star
September 24, 2013 12:00 am  • 

How do we know if a community is happy and thriving? Most often we look to economic data – median household income, percent home ownership, employment and poverty rates – to gauge a community’s health and happiness.  

But many social and behavioral scientists (including economists) and community activists question the degree to which we rely upon economic data to measure social well-being.  The beautiful “stuff” of everyday life (like art, social relationships, personal interactions, opportunities for learning, interactions with nature) is not easily captured by basic economic indicators.  This “stuff” is nonetheless an important reflection a community’s happiness and well-being.

 We see that problem played out here in Tucson, where economic indicators (e.g., low income and high unemployment and poverty rates) frequently define our community. Not that those aren’t important. Obviously a livable income, job opportunities, and economic stability are critical for individual and community growth. But we miss a lot about everyday life in Tucson when our understanding of community well-being  is reduced to economic indicators and excludes other things that enrich our lives.

We also miss a lot when we internalize economic measures as the benchmarks for personal success.  Research clearly demonstrates the limitations of income as predictor of personal happiness.  Studies show that “too much” income can actually diminish happiness— if we allow it to interfere with the things that truly make us happy.

Over the next week or so we will highlight research which explores the relationship between income and happiness, and relate this to Tucson.  We also discuss alternatives that other communities are exploring to determine social well-being. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts.  

Please tell us about your experience – what choices have you made personally to balance income and happiness? 

Did living in Tucson allow you to make that choice? What about living in Tucson makes you happy?

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About this blog

"Happiness Tucson" shares research from the social and behavioral sciences on happiness and relates it to Tucson. It is facilitated by the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, one of the largest colleges at the UA with approximately 6,000 majors in 20 different departments including sociology, communication, political science, anthropology, and history — among others.

The social and behavioral sciences are dedicated to understanding people and their connections — with each other, the world around them, and their pasts — and using that knowledge to help make communities healthier and more vibrant.

The UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences is on the UA campus in the Douglass Building. Please visit the college's website or find it on Facebook. To make suggestions for topics for this blog or to get more information, email downtownlectures@email.arizona.edu

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