updated 5/14/2004 11:53:37 AM ET 2004-05-14T15:53:37

Conventional grandmother wisdom says you can't put a price tag on happiness. Oh, really? A couple of economists, David Blanchflower of Dartmouth and Andrew Oswald of Warwick University in Britain, have attempted to do just that, assigning dollar values to the unhappiness that goes with, say, being divorced or jobless. It seems that you can buy happiness, but it's awfully expensive.

As the table shows, for example, they estimate that a divorced person would need to receive another $66,000 a year to be as happy as a married person with the same education, job status and other characteristics. How do they come up with such results? By analyzing surveys to see how much people's happiness varies with the amount of money they make, their race, whether they're employed and much else. Looking at it simply, a black American, for example, would have to earn $100,000 to be as happy as a white earning $69,000, all other things being equal.

The point of this? To show the relative importance of factors influencing mood levels. Getting additional money, however, only makes you pine for yet more. So there's no permanent solution to the quest for happiness, as Grandma could have told you.

© 2012


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