Alex Witt   |  June 29, 2013

How happy are Americans really?

Time Magazine’s Editor-at-Large, Jeffrey Kluger, joins Richard Lui to discuss the cover story in this week’s issue: The Pursuit of Happiness. Kluger points out that America has a culture that is genetically inclined to pursue happiness. He also explains how money can, in fact, buy happiness.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> how happy are americans. "time" magazine shows that 61% are as happy or happier than they expected to be in their lives. this is interesting data you had i know you combed through a lot of it to get here. so are we happier?

>> well, we are happier than in some cases we have a right to be, given everything that we've come up against in the last, say, six or seven years with the recession and some of the other challenges we face. but when you look back through even the past 40 years, one figure has remained fixed, which is only a third of us describe ourselves as very happy. that means two thirds are falling short.

>> interesting. what's the why, though? dig down into that for me?

>> the why is a few things. we are a culture that was experiencetially, historically and genetically inclined to want to be happier. we're an immigrant culture. there are a coup of key genes that have been found that seem to define immigrant cull chutures. a tolerance for risk taking. the things that make you get in the boat in the first place. we have that preprogrammed. now we live in a world that all the building we came to do is kind of done. we don't know quite what to do with ourselves.

>> another interesting result from your investigation into this idea of americans being happy is beyond a certain amount of money, you don't need it, you'll just be happy, right? that's the saying. what did you find?

>> well, we found, this is called the easterland paradox. everybody believed in it from 1974 on. beyond a certain threshold, money doesn't make a difference. well, guess what? money can fwie buy you happiness. and a little bit of extra income actually increases your happiness more dramatically in a wealthy country than it does in a poor country . you would think a 10% bump if you're not earning much would change your lifestyle in a very big way. but for bill gates , a 10% bump means nothing. but, in fact, more money at the higher end actually makes you happier still.

>> so when does it top out, though?

>> cording to these studies, it almost never does. the key is for your assets and aspirations to be in some kind of harmony. if you're earning $170,000 a year. you're in the top 5%. but if you're dreaming of a one percenter's lifestyle, you're going to feel disappointed and frustrated despite the fact that you're doing well.

>> interesting. and how much does keeping up with the joness factor into all of this information?

>> it factors into it a lot. it's the difference between socioeconomic status and sociometric, how you compare to the people around you. it used to be, we can only see the people who were literally around us in our community. now with reality show , with paparazzi, with facebook. if you've got 1,000 facebook friends all streaming their good ti straight into your eyeballs.

>> let's talk about social media and being happier. some might say gosh, social media has made it more tenuous for us. we think we have to be retweet tweeted or favorited.

>> there are a few things about that. people said when they spend any time at all on social media , they come away feeling less good about themselves when they went on. and 76% believe that all their friends are actually exaggerating how happy they are. but they don't think they're exaggerating how happy they are.

>> so how are we doing in the united states with other countries. we see studies of norway and sweden. they're always happier than we are.

>> and there are a lot of rps for that. in fairness, they face fewer challenges, they're smaller cultures. it's a more ho moj nous culture. you do see scandinavian and northern european countries doing well. but we fall behind malaysia, vietnam, tanzania. we fall behind a lot of other countries that we flatter ourselves to think we should be happier than. well, we're not. they're happier than we are.

>> on a personal note, you're a little less happier after doing?

>> i'm always happy. it's a lot of data, you were saying? right?

>> well, yeah, reporting the story, the total immersion. it was like studying for a bar exam . at the end of the week, i said this has been a pure oxymoron experience.

>> thank you, jeffrey. appreciate it.