Poll Finds Top 1 Percent of Earners Enjoy 'Near-Universal Life Satisfaction'

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Jan 10, 2020
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A recent poll has found that the top 1 percent of earners in the U.S. enjoy “near-universal life satisfaction,” with the number of those expressing dissatisfaction with their lives being practically zero, according to the Washington Post. The survey—conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health—polled 1,000 people, of whom 250 were in the top 1 percent of incomes, a deliberate oversampling. 

What they found was that 90 percent of top earners say they are “completely” or “very” satisfied with their lives in general, compared to 89 percent of high-income households, two-thirds of middle-income households and 44 percent of low-income households. The results indicate that people with a lot of money are happier than people that do not have a lot of money. This could be at least partially due to such factors as only 5 percent of top earners reporting they had difficulty paying medical bills and 0 percent saying they had difficulty buying food. In contrast, 40 percent of low-income households struggle with medical expenses and 30 percent struggle with food.

The survey differentiates between "happiness" and "life satisfaction" and stresses that it is meant to measure the latter, which relates to how people feel about their life in the long term, versus the former, which relates to how they feel on a day-to-day level. Other studies have found that happiness actually tends to top out at incomes around $70,000 a year, with little gain past that point, while life satisfaction seems to have no ceiling. With this in mind, it should perhaps not be surprising that 97 percent of top earners say they have already achieved the "American Dream" or are working toward it; by contrast, 40 percent of lower-income adults say the American dream is completely out of reach. 

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