Happiness Blog: When does money make you happy?

2013-09-27T16:00:00Z 2013-10-09T09:43:50Z Happiness Blog: When does money make you happy?Lydia Breunig and Lori Harwood Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

It is better to give than to receive.

A recent study found that people are happier when they use their money to benefit others rather than themselves (e.g., presents for friends, charitable giving).

Psychologists gave money to a group of people and then randomly assigned half of them to spend the money on themselves and the other half to spend the money on others. Those who spent the money on others --- what researchers call “pro-social” spending – were happier than those who spent it on themselves. Check out a great TEDX Talk for a fun description of this study.

How does this relate to Tucson?

According to a 2008 study by the Chronicle of Philanthropy of households that earned $50,000 or more annually, on average Tucson households gave away 4.3% of their discretionary income to charity –slightly less than the national average of 4.7%. At the same time, Tucson’s median discretionary income was well below the national median ($46,345 in Tucson versus $54,783 nationally).

WhereMedian contributionMedian discretionary incomePercent of income given
United States$2,594$54,7834.7
Tucson$1,982$46,3454.3

Table from The Chronicle of Philanthropy: How America Gives.

What do these numbers mean? Even though we as a community had less to give, we gave nearly as much as those with more. In other words, we’re a generous city.

And there’s more: receiving can also make you happier….especially when you show gratitude. (Which is shown in an incredibly touching demonstration in the YouTube video above - it made us cry tears of happiness). So, thank you, Tucson, for being so generous (ah, yes, we feel happier already)!

Does being a generous community make us a happy community? When did you last spend money on someone else? Did it make you happy?

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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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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