Income and happiness: Are they connected?

Published June 17, 2021, 11:37 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

Those with less income are “generally happy” than those with more, based on the results of a Philippine Journal of Science (PJS) study.


The study, which was conducted by Rosalina Palanca-Tan of the Department of Economics, Ateneo de Manila University in Koronadal City, revealed that even those who receive less than P10,000 monthly income can afford to be happy.

“Study results generally indicate that the impact of income on happiness is rather minute. The latest research supports the previous claim that an increase in income increases happiness marginally – but there exists a certain threshold level; a monthly income of about P 20,000. Beyond that, income ceases to increase happiness,” the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said in a Facebook post.

Palanca-Tan’s team looked into the relationship between income and happiness in Koronadal City, South Cotabato.

“While household income is used to measure economic welfare, self-reported or subjective happiness was used as measure of happiness,” the DOST noted.

Koronadal City, a component city, is the capital of the province of South Cotabato. It is formerly known as Marbel.

“The research shows that people in Koronadal, a low-income, semi-urban city in Mindanao, are generally happy even with low incomes, which is consistent with the happy poor image of the Filipino poor. As they are already happy and content with their lives, to begin with, the increase in happiness due to income is marginal and yet somewhat negligible in the practical sense,” Palanca-Tan said.

Quoting the study, the DOST said on a scale of 0-10 with 10 as being the highest, the average reported happiness is 6.75.

This is quite above the neutral score of 5, it said.

“Even the lowest income group, those with a monthly household income of less than P 10,000, which is actually below the subsistence income level, has surprisingly a mean happiness score of 6.31,” the study showed.

The study involved household heads, or the member traditionally making expenditure decisions in the family from Koronadal’s 27 barangays.

The participants “had an average monthly household income of P19,444, which is reasonably close to the regional average household income of P20,229, but is substantially lower than the Philippine Statistics Authority’s national average of P 26,112.”

The researchers also looked into other factors that significantly contribute to happiness such as the number of bedrooms, ownership of mobile phones, savings, loans, and membership in cooperatives.

“Results suggest that more than the level of income, financial security and stability, such as having savings and not having outstanding loans to worry about, and being a member of a credit cooperative to which people can run to in case of financial need, also contribute to people’s well-being, relatively.”

Based on the study, the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) has “no significant influence on happiness” in Koronadal City.

“Overall, the results suggest that other programs, for instance, increasing accessibility and affordability of goods and services that make daily life convenient and comfortable, as well as free of financial uncertainties and worries, may be more effective in raising people’s life-satisfaction or well-being than direct income-augmenting programs,” the DOST said.

“These findings shed light on some socially favorable economic and institutional conditions that can help provide directions to government officials and policymakers in terms of formulating and implementing more effective social programs that can eventually improve the lives of many Filipinos.”

The DOST announced that the complete discussion and results of this study will be available soon and can be downloaded for free from the Philippine Journal of Science (PJS).

The PJS is the country’s oldest peer-reviewed scientific journal. It is published by the Department of Science and Technology- Science and Technology Information Institute (DOST-STII).