Study: A McMansion Can't Buy Happiness

As houses grow and households shrink, many Americans have a lot more space to themselves. But recent research says they aren't any happier trying to keep up with Joneses.
June 12, 2019, 10am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Joe Pinsker shares news of a new study published by the Social Science Research Network finding that Americans aren't happier, despite the ever-increasing size of new homes in the country.

“Despite a major upscaling of single-family houses since 1980,” writes Clément Bellet, a postdoctoral fellow at the European business school INSEAD, “house satisfaction has remained steady in American suburbs.”

Bellet places blame for the lack of happiness on the same effect described by the saying "keeping up with the Joneses": it's all about comparisons. Pinsker explains: "By [Bellet's] calculation, if homes in the 90th percentile were 10 percent bigger, the neighbors would be less pleased with their own homes unless those homes grew 10 percent as well. Moreover, the homeowners most sensitive to such shifts are the ones whose houses are in the second-biggest tier, not the ones whose houses are median-sized."

The article includes more detail on the findings and methodology of the study, and the study's implications for the built environment.

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Published on Tuesday, June 11, 2019 in The Atlantic
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