A study of the mental state of the modern American woman by a Princeton University psychologist has found a powerful link between concerns over financial security and satisfaction with one's life.
In looking toward the future, women who concentrated much of their thinking on financial matters were much less likely to be happy with their lives, according to Talya Miron-Shatz, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton. And, contrary to expectations, many of those with such worries had plenty of money by conventional standards, she said, suggesting that there is more at play in obtaining peace of mind than simply having cash.
"Even if you are making a hundred grand a year, if you are constantly worried that you are going to get fired, that you are going to lose your health insurance or that you are simply not sure you are going to 'make it,' you are not going to be happy," Miron-Shatz said. Such concerns, she found, affected a wide variety of women at all income levels.
Conversely, those who didn't fixate on finances like retirement savings, tuition for college or simply making ends meet, reported being the happiest of the group.
The study was published Feb. 25 in Judgment and Decision Making, a scholarly journal. Miron-Shatz is hoping the results might guide policy decisions, especially those being devised by President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress in the wake of today's financial crisis. Her work would favor a focus on strategies that create social and financial "safety nets" over measures that would directly increase income.
To understand how income and concerns over financial security may relate to a person's satisfaction with life, Miron-Shatz conducted two separate studies of a representative sample of nearly 1,000 American women of various ages and incomes. In one study, she showed that considerations of financial security were as important to the study subjects as their monetary assets.
She asked subjects in the second study to think about the future in an open-ended manner. Those who did so and mentioned financial concerns -- retirement, college tuition, making ends meet, etc. -- were less satisfied with their lives, she found, than those who did not raise such concerns. One of her participants said that when thinking of her future she wondered, "Will I be happy and financially stable?" The stability, Miron-Shatz says, is crucial. "It's not about greed," she added. "It's about knowing whatever it is you have, be it your McMansion or your motor home, won't be taken away from you."
Discussions about wealth need to be expanded to include this notion of financial security, she said, and though valid and meaningful, this factor is "glaringly missing from economic discussions," she said in her paper's introduction.
Psychologists have long sought to understand the connection between money and happiness.
Though the popular conception has been that "money can't buy happiness," studies have shown that wealth can play a role in enhancing happiness. Yet, wealth itself has been poorly defined in studies. And, contributing to this complicated relationship is what Princeton Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman has called the "satisfaction treadmill." In pioneering studies of human happiness, Kahneman, the Eugene Higgins Professor Emeritus of Psychology, has found that satisfaction does not necessarily increase in a corresponding amount with an improved financial status.
Miron-Shatz is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Kahneman, a psychologist who has pioneered the integration of research about decision-making into economics and won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economic sciences. Miron-Shatz's paper grew out of her work with Kahneman, who is her adviser.
Kitta MacPherson | EurekAlert!
Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy