October 28, 2016

We know the old adage, “money can’t buy you love.” But, we also know the feeling that if we had just a little more money, we might be just a little more happy. Figuring out the balance between the two can be tough. How much value should you put in your paycheck? Cornell economist Robert Frank agrees that it’s complicated, but he might also have some answers for us. 

Three Takeaways:

  • Only 30 percent of Americans feel engaged at work. “It’s a sad statistic,” Frank says. “We spend more time working than anything else, and if you’re not happy with what you’re doing, that’s too bad.” 
  • Frank and his students did a study that compared two very similar jobs: writing copy for the American Cancer Society discouraging teenagers from smoking, and writing copy for a tobacco company encouraging teenagers to smoke. Over 90 percent of people said they’d take the American Cancer Society job. But, they’d switch to the tobacco company if it paid, on average, 80 percent more than the American Cancer Society. 
  • “Context matters enormously,” Frank insists. When he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, he lived in a two-room house without electricity. And he loved it. But he’s quick to admit that if he lived in a similar house in Ithaca, New York (where he lives now), he would have a pretty different attitude.

More Reading:

innovation hub, NPR, WGBH, Kara Miller, Robert Frank

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