Be happy: get a smaller house and a shorter commute

Personally, I've never really been able to understand why some people are willing to spend so much time in their cars and away from the things in life that matter in order to have a few more hundred square feet of home, or whatever material goods they may desire.  Time, is one thing you definitely cannot get back.  Thus, I enjoyed this post from Ezra Klein:

This isn't so much a paradox so much as an incorrect expectation, but still:

This is what economists call “the commuting paradox.”
Most people travel long distances with the idea that they'll accept the
burden for something better, be it a house, salary, or school. They
presume the trade-off is worth the agony. But studies show that
commuters are on average much less satisfied with their lives than
noncommuters. A commuter who travels one hour, one way, would have to
make 40% more than his current salary to be as fully satisfied with his
life as a noncommuter, say economists Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer
of the University of Zurich's Institute for Empirical Research in
Economics. People usually overestimate the value of the things they'll
obtain by commuting — more money, more material goods, more prestige
— and underestimate the benefit of what they are losing: social
connections, hobbies, and health. “Commuting is a stress that doesn't
pay off,” says Stutzer.

Longtime readers know my obsession
with the way we overvalue positional goods like money, prestige, and
real estate and undervalue non-positional goods like social
connections, walking to work, and health. But the evidence really is
clear that you need to make a whole dump truck of money to outweigh the
happiness offered by being only a 15 minute stroll from the office, and
that that extra room for your old guitars isn't going to make you
nearly as ecstatic as you think it will.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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