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Happiness is a) Warm Puppy, b) Money, c) None

Psychology, wellbeing

Sometimes, I wish the founding fathers had included an instruction manual with the Declaration of Independence, like when it came to the pursuit of happiness.

Money is one way to go about it, of course. And it has generally been true that the rich are happier than the poor. But something else must be happening to Americans that is affecting their sense of well-being.

Despite the fact that income inequality — the chasm between rich and poor — has grown to levels rarely seen outside the third world, happiness inequality in the United States seems to have declined sharply over the past 35 years. And that is not because everyone is just that much more cheerful.

According to new research by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the happiness gap between blacks and whites has fallen by two-thirds since the early 1970s. The gender gap (women used to be happier than men) has disappeared. Most significant, the disparity in happiness within demographic groups has also shrunk: the unhappiest 25 percent of the population has gotten a lot happier. The happiest quarter is less cheerful.

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