A study of 1.6 million people ties high incomes with more positive emotions and fewer negative ones, but only towards the self.
- A review of data from 1.6 million people shows that higher incomes relate to more positive feelings about the self.
- Feelings towards others were not affected by higher incomes.
- The findings have implications for those hoping to improve society by raising incomes alone.
It has often said that money cannot buy happiness, though it is also thought that the wealthy enjoy their miseries in relative comfort. While it is easy to measure the external benefits of increased wealth, the studies on how more money affects people at a personal level are limited and show mixed results. While many of them show that people think their lives are improved after becoming better off financially, attempts to find out if they are actually happier have provided few answers.
Looking to correct for that problem, an international team of researchers reviewed studies involving 1.6 million people and found that not only does income positively relate to some positive emotions, but that the effect is similar all over the world.
This study, led by Dr. Eddie Tong of the National University of Singapore, looked at data from 162 countries. Its findings, published in the journal Emotion, provide robust evidence for the effect of higher incomes on positive and negative emotions towards the self that mesh well with existing data on how changes in income make people feel about their lives overall.
Overall, the evidence shows that higher incomes are associated with more pride, confidence, and determination, and fewer instances of negative self-regarding emotions, such as sadness, fear, shame, and anxiety. Previous studies, which have tended to avoid asking about specific feelings, also found that increased income was positively correlated with overall life satisfaction by roughly the same amount.
This review also demonstrated that these effects are not just short-term ones. One study found that higher income levels predicted higher levels of self-regard 10 years after initial surveys.
The researchers determined that at least part of this effect was mediated by an increased sense of control over their lives that people felt as the earned more money. This is in line with previous studies, which have also tied a sense of control over life events to higher incomes, improved mental health, and happiness.
However, while this is good for how somebody might feel about themselves after a raise or about their life in general, the effects don't seem to apply to another crucial area of human life — how you feel towards others.
Perhaps there is a reason why Scrooge didn't start off caring about other people.
While people consistently reported increasingly positive self-regarding emotions as their incomes rose, their stances towards other people didn't change much.
Other-regarding emotions, which can refer to specific people, groups of people, or humankind in general, can include familiar feelings like gratitude, love, compassion, or anger. To the authors' surprise, the data they reviewed showed little to no relationship between increasing incomes and positive or negative other-regarding emotions. As Dr. Tong explained:
"Having more money doesn't necessarily make a person more compassionate and grateful, and greater wealth may not contribute to building a more caring and tolerant society."
While some of the studies reviewed suggested a positive relationship between income and positive other-regarding emotions, the mixed results mean that no association can be confirmed.
What are the implications of this?
Dr. Tong summarized the findings' implications for policymakers:
"Policies aimed at raising the income of the average person and boosting the economy may contribute to emotional well-being for individuals. However, it may not necessarily contribute to emotional experiences that are important for communal harmony."
On a more personal level, these findings remind us that money isn't everything but that it is something. Dr. Tong remarked:
"The effects of income on our emotional well-being should not be underestimated. Having more money can inspire confidence and determination while earning less is associated with gloom and anxiety."
The parts of the study focusing on self-control as a mediator also tied to other studies suggesting that autonomy is good for people.
A recent study on the matriarchal culture of the Mosuo people shows that the women living in villages where they weld power over their own lives are healthier than other Mosuo women living in patriarchal villages. While the study didn't suggest that no health issues existed in these societies, it did note improvements in comparison to others.
Like any other study, this one was not perfect, and there are reasons you should take these findings with a little salt.
This study was correlational and cannot prove causation. It could be the case that some unknown factor connects higher incomes with these positive emotions, for example. Further studies will be needed to demonstrate causation. Additionally, while the effect was noteworthy and consistent in countries on every continent and of all economic development levels, the effect was not massive. The findings do not suggest that higher income levels are a silver bullet effective against all negative self-regard.
Even with those caveats, this study's findings are an important improvement on the previous literature on this subject. While the connection between income and self-regard is limited, it is significant enough to suggest that millions of people's emotional states can be improved by focusing on their finances, even if that won't be enough to build a caring society for them to live in.
Of course, at that point, they might be well off and self-assured enough not to mind as much, but that's another problem.
A new MIT report proposes how humans should prepare for the age of automation and artificial intelligence.
- A new report by MIT experts proposes what humans should do to prepare for the age of automation.
- The rise of intelligent machines is coming but it's important to resolve human issues first.
- Improving economic inequality, skills training, and investment in innovation are necessary steps.
Does the coming age of intelligent machines mean billions of humans are about to be out of work? Not necessarily, concludes a new report from MIT's Task Force on the Work of the Future. The two-and-a-half year study on technology and jobs concluded that while some jobs will disappear, innovations will also drive the creation of new jobs for the lower and middle class workers.
The report, "The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines," also highlighted growing economic inequalities and recommended specific policies governments should embrace to make sure the transition to a future rife with robots doesn't leave large segments of the population behind. Institutional changes must accompany the technological ones.
The Task Force that produced the document was co-chaired by MIT Professors David Autor and David Mindell and executive director Dr. Elisabeth Reynolds, while the expansive group of experts involved more than 20 faculty members from 12 departments, and over 20 graduate students.
One important note the study made is that while many expect automation to take over our lives in the near future, there is still time to prepare and make sure the transition to intelligent machines is in itself intelligent. Ultimately, it's not the machines we need to worry about, but the exacerbation of the existing human-made problems and deficiencies. Specific areas policy makers should focus on include investing into skills development and worker retraining, improving job quality, and expanding and shaping innovation.
Perhaps the central message of the study is that technology both takes away jobs and creates new ones. Around 63 percent of the jobs carried out in 2018 didn't even exist in 1940.
Here are the 10 ways humans should prepare for the rise of the role artificial intelligence will play in our lives:
1. Increase private sector investment in skills and training
The group pinpoints the importance of private sector investment in training employees, especially with the purpose of increasing the upward mobility for lower-wage and less-educated workers. This will particularly affect minority workers, who are overrepresented in this group. The report estimates only about half of employees get training from their employers in any given year.
2. Significantly increase federal funding for training programs
The report advocates getting the government to fund training programs that can help lead to middle-class jobs for workers who don't have a four-year college degree.
3. Support community colleges
The research team thinks community colleges should be supported by the federal government's money and policies to advance programs that connect employers to the education being received by students. The policies should be aimed at raising degree completion rates at community colleges.
4. Invest in innovative training methods
Demonstration and field testing programs that work out new retraining and reemployment ideas should be given particular focus, according to the MIT scientists.
"Innovation improves the quantity, quality, and variety of work that a worker can accomplish in a given time," wrote the report's authors. "This rising productivity, in turn, enables improving living standards and the flourishing of human endeavors. Indeed, in what should be a virtuous cycle, rising productivity provides society with the resources to invest in those whose livelihoods are disrupted by the changing structure of work.
5. Restore the real value of the federal minimum wage
The report spotlights the growing economic disparity between low-paid workers and the rest of society. Compared to Canadians, for example, low-paid Americans earn 26 percent less. Government policy should make sure people in traditionally low-paid service jobs like cleaning, groundskeeping, food service, entertainment, recreation, and health assistance get adequate pay and some economic security. To that end, the researchers propose that the minimum wage should be raised to at least 40 percent of the national median wage. This value should also be indexed to inflation.
6. Modernize and extend unemployment insurance (UI) benefits
Several measures are recommended to improve unemployment insurance and extend it to workers that aren't usually covered. The report suggests allowing workers to count their most recent earnings to determine eligibility, determining eligibility based on hours rather than earnings, dropping the requirement that unemployed seek full-time work (because many hold part-time jobs), and reforming partial UI benefits from the states.
7. Strengthen and adapt labor laws
Labor laws need to be both improved and better enforced, states the report. Contraction of private sector labor unions makes it harder for rank-and-file workers to bargain for wage growth that matches the growth of productivity growth. How workers are represented needs to be innovated as much as the technologies. Current U.S. laws "retard the development of alternative approaches," write the researchers. For example, due to racial politics during the New Deal, sectors of the American workforce like domestic workers and agricultural workers are unable to participate in collective bargaining.
8. Increase federal research spending
In a proposal aimed at fostering innovation and making sure its benefits are experienced by workers, the MIT group thinks it's key to increase government spending on research, especially in areas not addressed by the private sector. These tend to involve longer-term research that addresses the social impacts of new technologies, zeroing in on major national problems, climate change, human health and similar larger research topics. Investing into research on human-centered AI, collaborative robotics and the science of education should be a part of this approach.
Small and medium-sized businesses should receive targeted government assistance to allow them to increase productivity via the new tech, advises the MIT team.
9. Expand the geography of innovation in the United States
Innovation is increasingly "concentrated geographically," think the researchers. For a country that has so many universities, entrepreneurs, and workers that are spread throughout, the benefits of innovation should be made available not only to more workers, but also to more of the country's regions. Each state can have its own Silicon Valley.
10. Rebalance taxes on capital and labor
Innovation is necessary in the tax law as well, according to the report. It's important to change the manner in which the current tax code "unduly favors investments in capital" by eliminating accelerated depreciation allowances, applying corporate income tax equally to all corporations, and instituting an employer training tax credit.
What would happen if the U.S. guaranteed every citizen a job with a living wage and benefits?
Stephanie Keith / Getty
- A new book from Pavlina Tcherneva, chair of the economics department at New York's Bard College, makes the case for a "Job Guarantee" federal program.
- The program would grant jobs to every citizen who's willing and able to work.
- A 2019 poll found that a majority of Americans would support a federally funded jobs program.
Since COVID-19 began spreading across the U.S. earlier this year, more than 45 million Americans have filed for unemployment. The Federal government has passed a $2.3 trillion economic stimulus package. And unemployment hit Depression-era levels, with the Federal Reserve projecting that rates will hover around 9.3 percent by the end of 2020.
"This is the biggest economic shock, in the U.S. and the world, really, in living memory," Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said at a news conference in June. "We went from the lowest level of unemployment in 50 years to the highest level in close to 90 years, and we did it in two months."
To economist Pavlina Tcherneva, the pandemic didn't just present the American economy with a unique set of problems, but rather revealed its built-in flaws that have long prevented millions of Americans from securing decent jobs.
In her new book, "The Case for a Job Guarantee", Tcherneva offers an ambitious policy proposal that calls for the federal government to provide living-wage jobs and benefits to anyone willing and able to work.
"At bottom," Tcherneva writes in the book, "the Job Guarantee is a policy of care, one that fundamentally rejects the notion that people in economic distress, communities in disrepair, and an environment in peril are the unfortunate but unavoidable collateral damage of a market economy."
The idea of using federal funding to create jobs isn't new. It's found in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, Franklin D. Roosevelt's proposed Economic Bill of Rights, and was again debated during the Civil Rights Movement. It's also a key component of the Green New Deal, a suite of policy proposals that seeks to aggressively tackle climate change and economic inequality.
In Tcherneva's vision, the Job Guarantee would act as a sort of buffer. Here's a bit on how a Job Guarantee might work in the U.S.:
$15 minimum wage and benefits
Jobs granted through the program would offer at least $15 per hour, and this base wage would remain flexible to match inflation over time. The Job Guarantee would also provide workers with health insurance, paid leave, childcare, and possibly fewer hours than the current 40-hour standard work week.
Establishing standards like these, Tcherneva argues, would pressure private firms to treat and pay workers better, considering that now they'd have more employment options and wouldn't have to settle for poor working conditions.
Jobs would be funded federally, administered locally
Across the U.S., unemployment offices would be converted into employment offices. The unemployed would be able to enter these offices and "leave with a list of employment options, public-service opportunities you'll be able to access locally," Tcherneva told Vox.
What would those jobs look like? Tcherneva offered some examples: performing weatherization on a local hardware store, replacing lead pipes on a construction site, helping out at a homeless shelter, or working on local alternative-energy projects.
The federal government would remain mostly hands off, allowing state and local governments to decide which public projects to pursue, and how to allocate resources.
The program would be 'counter-cyclical'
In the current economic system, unemployment spreads like a virus: people lose their jobs, stop spending money, businesses are forced to shut down, and so on.
A Job Guarantee could act as a buffer that absorbs unemployed people before they fall to the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. And this could help to stabilize the economy during recessions, assuming these workers continued to spend money. As the economy improves, workers could move back to their previous jobs, or to other employment options.
How the U.S. might pay for a Job Guarantee
Tcherneva doesn't deny that a Job Guarantee would require massive public investment, but she notes that what's lacking isn't the money, but political will. What's more, she notes the high social costs of having a large swath of the American workforce remain, more or less, permanently unemployed.
"I came to the Jobs Guarantee from a macroeconomic perspective — the realization that we were using unemployed people as a kind of "buffer stock" to control inflation," she told the Los Angeles Times. "Having unemployed people means that when the economy grows, those people would be there to take those jobs."
"But what if we could use employment as a buffer stock? That's obviously the superior option. I realized that you couldn't just argue about this as a macroeconomic policy, you have to bring in the human rights framework, the moral framework. You have to think about the kind of neglect, the health effects, the pain that unemployment inflicts on people who want to work."
According to projections from the Levy Institute, with which Tcherneva is affiliated, the program would cost about 1.5 percent of the U.S. GDP, boost real GDP by half a trillion dollars, and create 3 to 4 million jobs.
California is requiring all new homes to be built with #solar panels, all public buses to be zero emissions, and is… https://t.co/1wvxLQxfN9— Mike Hudema (@Mike Hudema)1593041549.0
The Job Guarantee proposal has no shortage of critics. What's more, these points are just a brief overview of what the program seeks to establish. But, surprisingly, more Americans seem to support the idea than you may realize.
According to a 2019 poll from The Hill-HarrisX, more than 70 percent of Americans said they would "somewhat" or "strongly" support a federal program that created jobs for the unemployed.
With 45% of recent college graduates under or unemployed, it's time to explore new solutions.
- Parker Dewey connects recent grads with top employers on a per-project basis.
- We think hiring is badly broken (nobody's fault!), and ours is a good solution.
- Over 90% of individuals who complete a Parker Dewey project are employed in professional roles, compared with 64% of other college grads.
The fallout from COVID-19 confronts graduating college seniors with a stark economic reality which, sadly, no amount of inspirational commencement speeches can undo. Across-the-board hiring freezes are common, and many summer internships, which serve the critical role of integrating young professionals into the workplace, are postponed or cancelled. Similar to the financial crash of 2008, students' professional mettle will be tested.
Yet I am hopeful that the seeds of opportunity were planted years ago, and that we are seeing some green shoots. What specifically do I mean? In 2016, long before COVID-19 disrupted the economy, I founded the company Parker Dewey—named after Francis Parker and John Dewey, the "founding fathers" of experiential learning—to help fix the broken entry-level hiring system. The traditional ways to identify, assess, and hire college students and recent graduates for full-time roles is ineffective, resulting in approximately 45% of recent college graduates being under or unemployed. Employers, who spend enormous time and effort hiring new college graduates, see most leave before the one-year mark.
Typically, it goes like this: a job opening is posted online, hundreds of people apply instantly, narrowing the applicant field becomes a near-impossible task, and an interviewer eventually glances at a resume before asking questions that won't substitute for seeing a job candidate in action.
We designed Parker Dewey to fix that by connecting college students and recent graduates—we call them Career Launchers—with specific projects from some of the nation's most sought-after employers, and those that may be "under the radar." Since launching, we've partnered with firms ranging from start-ups to those in the Fortune 100, which use our proprietary platform to provide these "micro-internship" opportunities. These mutually beneficial experiences allow both the Career Launcher and the company to test-drive each other before a full-time role is offered or filled.
In addition, micro-internships allow college students to better hone and demonstrate those "core skills" most valued by employers such as communication, adaptability, problem solving, and grit. While these skills are a key component of a post-secondary curriculum, rarely do students (or employers) appreciate the crosswalks from classroom to career, especially in classes that don't sound like a job title.
Right now, 55% of college graduates leave a full-time roll before completing a full year.
Micro-internships provide professional opportunities that many Career Launchers would lack in a world of typical internships alone, which require a 10- or 12-week commitment, cannot be completed remotely, and are often unpaid. Traditional summer internships are inaccessible to students who work while earning their degree, who need flexible scheduling, and even student-athletes who compete and train while their peers explore careers. As a direct result of the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19, more employers are recognizing the need for more flexible opportunities to attract, assess, and hire Career Launchers.
Some of the typical projects available on Parker Dewey's platform include creating a social media editorial calendar, drafting a press release form, wireframing a fitness app, editing an independent film, and creating digital "vaults" for financial investors—plus many more.
Each project has a thorough description, start date, end date, estimated number of hours to completion, and the amount the Career Launcher will be paid. We are fully integrated with LinkedIn, so creating a professional profile on the Parker Dewey platform is easy, and we eliminate the problem of applicant deluge by matching individuals with companies when each side shows a mutual interest in each other.
Beyond providing all types of students with access to employment, micro-internships have been described as "job dating," and while we didn't model the platform on dating apps, I can definitely see the parallel. I think companies and potential employees should "date" each other before making the engagement-like commitment of an internship, or the marriage of a full-time role. Right now, 55% of college graduates leave a full-time roll before completing a full year.
When I was fresh out of undergrad as an accounting major, I was hired by a big accounting firm for what was supposed to be my dream job. But I knew after one week it wasn't what I wanted. Without a platform to showcase my skills to companies in other industries, or explore other pathways, I was a fresh-water fish in the salty accounting seas. In this time of economic uncertainty, Parker Dewey connects Career Launchers with paying projects from top employers, while giving each side time to learn more about each other. That's a win-win we could all use right now. You can create your profile now to get instant access to industry-leading micro-internships.
The pandemic has given us an early glimpse at how truly disruptive the fourth industrial revolution may be, and the measures we'll need to support human dignity.
- The coronavirus crisis has acted as a catalyst for two powerful transformative forces: automation and universal basic income.
- These two intertwined forces will undoubtedly gain steam, writes Frederick Kuo, and the pandemic will hasten the acceptance of them from a scale of decades to years or mere months.
- This crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future could look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure.
The coronavirus pandemic has sent the global economy into a tailspin posing a twisted choice to humankind between economic survival or our very health. Markets are crashing, numbers of infected people and deaths soaring by the day and a massive part of the global economy forced into a standstill as people shelter in place. Looking out the window, the world still looks the same. The sun is still shining, the leaves still rustle in the wind and birds still chirp merrily as if nothing was amiss. However there is no mistaking a collective sense of mourning that the world is feeling as normal daily routines and freedoms we took for granted have come to a sudden halt. Amidst the constant barrage of gloomy news however, this crisis shall inevitably pass. But the world post-COVID-19 will not be the same; the crisis has acted as a catalyst for powerful transformative forces such as automation and the need for universal basic income, two intertwined forces that will undoubtedly gain steam.
COVID-19 will expedite automation
As the mobility of human beings grinds to a halt due to public health directives and fears of infection, our need for food, resources and social connection has forced us to increasingly rely on technology to fill urgent gaps. In the United States, Amazon is seizing this opportunity to further entrench its domination, while in China, robots are being deployed to serve those in quarantine. In a world where fear of contact with other humans has become pervasive, businesses that can adapt quickly and significantly automate their supply lines and cut points of human contact stand to thrive in this new market.
Whereas before this crisis, the need for automation was mainly driven by the desire for increased profits and improved efficiency, the momentous shift in public consciousness today regarding simple human contact may make automation almost a necessity for many businesses to survive. When humans trust a robot to handle or deliver their food or goods more than they trust another human, or when crowded workplaces present public health hazards, jobs for humans will be unceremoniously eliminated. Given existing technologies, experts have estimated 36 million jobs may be vulnerable, ranging from trucking and delivery to food service and repetitive white collar jobs, the labor market may face a significant restructure driven by new technology and a radically altered market for those technologies. In a recent survey conducted by auditing firm Ernst & Young, more than half of company bosses throughout 45 countries had begun implementing existing plans to fast track automation.
This crisis has compacted the timeline of a gradual acceptance of an automated future from years into months.
The crisis of unemployment has become real for tens of millions locked down around the world. Although this phase is likely to be temporary with normality expected to return by the third quarter, the process of entrenching automation in our daily lives will be radically pushed forward. This crisis has compacted the timeline of a gradual acceptance of an automated future from years into months. In Seattle, Amazon has pioneered Amazon Go, a small grocery that relies on cameras and sensors to charge customers for what they buy instead of a checkout line. With Amazon already in control of a major grocery chain, Whole Foods, one could imagine that this little, fully automated store could serve as a template for a nationwide expansion of this technology, thus reducing the once-vital role of the cashier nearly overnight. Similar rollouts of automation models will likely follow in the coming years, affecting warehouse employees, delivery people, food service personnel and more.
Mainstream acceptance of UBI
In early 2019, Andrew Yang began gaining news coverage regarding the central theme of his presidential campaign: $1,000 a month in universal basic income (UBI) dispersed to every American. His primary argument for the necessity of this safety net rested on the belief that the coming age of automation was about to inundate vast scores of our current jobs with a shrinking percentage of elite tech corporations gobbling up more and more of the profit. When Yang first introduced his vision, it seemed to belong to a remote dystopian future with little relevance to the booming economy and low unemployment figures that was the reality until only weeks ago. On the right, he was lambasted as a communist seeking to turn American citizens into dependents to the state. On the left, his ideas were dismissed as other Democratic hopefuls touted the Green New Deal and job programs.
Fast forward to today and Andrew Yang's UBI theory has moved straight into the forefront. Trump, perhaps cognizant that the "Yang Gang" pulled a great deal of support from his own supporters, quickly recognized the popularity of his ideas and the need to provide supplemental income to Americans as shelter-in-place directives began to take hold throughout the country. The massive $2 trillion coronavirus emergency stimulus will provide every American earning $75,000 or less, regardless of current employment, a check of $1,200 per person and $500 per child for the duration of the crisis. There has been little debate over the necessity of this measure because it has proven to be widely popular to the public, regardless of political standing. It lifts some of the immediate and pressing need to work and helps take some of the edge off from isolating at home, thus contributing to a quicker resolution of this health crisis by sending fewer people out into the streets.
Although the pandemic and the stimulus check is temporary, this crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future would look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure.
Although the stimulus package is a stopgap measure to deal with this crisis, its absolute necessity during this crisis has validated Yang's prophetic vision of a dystopian future where work no longer becomes possible for huge swathes of the American people. The reality is that the after effects of this crisis will be felt for at least months after the pandemic ends. There is little security for either the business owners or employees of food service businesses, bars, hair and nail salons and essentially any business that requires large crowds of people to gather and interact. To the initial detractors of UBI who argued that the program would breed laziness and a welfare state, the reality is that for most workers thrown into the sea of uncertainty, receiving a stimulus check will provide a small lifeline but will ultimately be of little solace to individuals who are accustomed to earning far more and who derive a sense of pride and satisfaction from their jobs. For most of those impacted by loss of employment, supplemental income in the form of a UBI helps take the edge off but it is ultimately no replacement for having a job or business.
Although the pandemic and the stimulus check is temporary, this crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future would look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure. Automation and artificial intelligence are coming and will significantly alter the way we work, shop, eat and socialize. As society experiences the disruptive force of technology and draws on our collective experiences fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, UBI may become a permanent fixture of our political economy as well.