A Wealth of Meaning

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Science  27 Jul 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6093, pp. 391
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6093.391-c

The United Nations recently reported that women spend anywhere from twice to four times the number of hours on family and domestic responsibilities as men, which has invigorated a discussion about the tradeoffs between career and family that women often face. Kushlev et al. examined the link between wealth—in the form of education and income—and subjective measures of the meaningfulness of life and happiness of residents of British Columbia. An inverse relation was observed between socioeconomic status and the meaningfulness of life for parents when taking care of their children, whereas during the rest of the day, there was no such correlation. In a follow-up field experiment, the concept of wealth was casually introduced while asking attendees at a children's festival about their happiness and sense of meaning. Once again, there was no link between wealth and happiness, but a negative relation between thoughts of wealth and a sense of meaningfulness. Thus, paradoxically, affluence may compromise one of the subjective benefits of parenting—a sense of meaning in life.

J. Exp. Soc. Psychol. 48, 10.1016/j.jesp.2012.06.001 (2012).

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