Study: Money Can’t Buy Happiness, But Happiness Can Buy Money

Last month we learned that popular high-school students go on to earn significantly more than their uncool peers. Now a new study finds that people who are happy as kids go on to earn more, too. A higher level life satisfaction at age 22, they say, is associated with an extra $2,000 a year by age 29. Some people have all the luck.

Researchers analyzed data from 15,000 American adolescents and young adults. They found that those who report higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness (measured in something called “positive affect”) go on to earn significantly more than the Eeyores around them. In part, this is because happy people are likelier to earn degrees, find jobs, and get promoted.

And no, it can’t just be explained by the fact that happy people come from happy, stable homes. The researchers compared siblings to each other, finding that happier individuals who grew up in the same household end up earning more than their Debbie Downer siblings. The also factored in things like education, health, genetic variation, IQ, and self-esteem.

This means two things: First, it emphasizes the importance of a happy childhood. “These findings show that the emotional well-being of children and adolescents is key to their future success,” one of the study’s authors explained, “yet another reason to ensure we create emotionally healthy home environments.”

Second, while money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, happiness does buy money. Good to know. But maybe don’t tell any depressed young people you know about this?

Photo: Mariia Masich /


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