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Social Trends in American LifeFindings from the General Social Survey since 1972$
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Peter V. Marsden

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691133317

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691133317.001.0001

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Income, Age, and Happiness in America

Income, Age, and Happiness in America

(p.267) 10 Income, Age, and Happiness in America
Social Trends in American Life

Glenn Firebaugh

Laura Tach

Princeton University Press

Between 1972 and 2006, general happiness levels among American adults remained quite steady, though a minor drop can be detected. This chapter tries to account for this stability, given the growth in real family incomes and standards of living that occurred during the era. Several factors—better health, being married, greater education, and higher income—made people happier at any given point in time. However, assessments of well-being in societies like the contemporary United States reflect not only absolute levels of living but also comparisons of one's income to that typical in a reference group of peers. The analysis finds higher happiness among adults whose family incomes are higher than average for their age group at the time, implying that happiness rises only when income increases more rapidly than average.

Keywords:   American adults, happiness levels, quality of life, family income, social trends

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