'I Wish I Hadn't Worked So Hard.' Greed and Life Satisfaction

49 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2021 Last revised: 17 Apr 2021

See all articles by Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn

Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden

Rubia Valente

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Lonnie Golden

Pennsylvania State University - Abington College; Economic Policy Institute; Project for Middle Class Renewal

Date Written: March 1, 2021

Abstract

A palliative nurse listed the most common regrets of the dying in their last days: "I wish I hadn't worked so hard" is among the top, especially for men. We know from philosophers, social scientists, and religious teachings that greed and materialism are vices. Yet, neo-classical economic theory, which dominates current thinking, promotes the maximization of income and consumption as a virtue. In this paper, we test whether wanting \more work and more money" results in human flourishing measured as life satisfaction. We also use additional measures of greed/materialism based on whether respondents agreed with the following statements: \next to health, money is most important," \no right and wrong ways to make money," and \a job is just a way to earn money." Results for all measures concur there are large negative effect sizes of these measures on life satisfaction, on average about half of the positive effect of income. The findings support policies aiming to curb excessive working hours, materialism, and conspicuous/positional consumption. This study is associative, not necessarily causal, and results may not generalize beyond the US, especially where people are less obsessed with work and money.

Keywords: Subjective Well-Being (Swb), Happiness, Life Satisfaction, Working Hours, Greed, Money, Consumerism, Conspicuous Consumption, Materialism

Suggested Citation

Okulicz-Kozaryn, Adam and Valente, Rubia and Golden, Lonnie, 'I Wish I Hadn't Worked So Hard.' Greed and Life Satisfaction (March 1, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3810319 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3810319

Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn (Contact Author)

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Camden ( email )

Camden, NJ 08102
United States

Rubia Valente

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Lonnie Golden

Pennsylvania State University - Abington College ( email )

1600 Woodland Rd.
Abington, PA 19001
United States
215-881-7596 (Phone)
215-881-7333 (Fax)

Economic Policy Institute ( email )

1660 L Street NW, Suite 1200
Washington, DC 20036
United States

Project for Middle Class Renewal ( email )

1408 W. Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801
United States

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