Some of my recent thoughts and the articles I’ve read made me wonder more about human happiness. Is a high level of income a strong reason for happiness? Or, does a certain level of education make one person happier than another? It would be almost impossible to answer these two questions and many others that arise afterwards in only one blog. So, I will try to answer a simple question first.

Can money buy you any happiness at all?

The answer for this question is not an easy one. You have to test it on people first and this definitely implies lots of difficulties. For example, if you would ask rich people and poor people if they are happy or not, you will most probably end up with a conclusion that “richer” equals to “happier”. This conclusion might be wrong because when a person reaches a certain degree of wealth, two more cars might not make that person happier at all. Also, I am sure that if a study is conducted on a group of persons that are asked questions in the same room, the results would be astonishing, because people change their minds over the degree of their happiness when they are asked this question in a group if compared to the opposite situation. How could you see if they lie? Well, you will never know for sure.

It is obvious that the question above has no plain answer. In this sense, I tried to change the direction of the question in order to get a better way of understanding things, because you know, the answer depends almost entirely on how you place your question.

Does being poor makes someone unhappy? It most probably does, because that person will not fulfill his basic needs. And how do you measure poverty then? Aha, here is another tricky question. The 2 USD per day margin set by UN is not a very accurate measure for poverty. First, this income level is expressed in currency, which involves lots of risks like rise in US inflation and the exchange rate risk. Second, this level is changed rarely while prices in so called “poor countries” are likely to increase on monthly basis.

Almost every way to measure poverty I thought about has various problems in defining a level under which a person is deprived for sure. In consequence, I thought for another way to measure if people feel poor. As presented above people might lie in different situation about their degree of happiness, or about whether they feel poor or rich. In such case, one should try to find out the true answer in human behavior. To get a really great estimate for the poverty problem I intend to find a particular human action that is not influenced by what others say, so that the action would not be limited under certain circumstances.

What most “poor” people dream about is becoming richer. Moreover, it will give their level of happiness a great boost if this wealth would be acquired overnight without any big effort in terms of their leisure time. The best way to solve this problem is to gamble. Lottery does not require any big amount of investment or any big loss in spare time. And winning in a lottery can grant a person an incredible return on investment ratio. In this sense, I assume that people, who believe themselves poor (without even realizing it), have strong incentives to play at a lottery or to gamble in a casino. Therefore, a great way to figure out how many people think they are poor without asking them this question, is to find out how many people gamble. A lottery can prove to be a great instrument for this, because we could track not only the number of people gambling but the amount of their investment and the region they come from.

The single issue that I could not address so far is the one raised by avid gamblers. These persons might not be poor at all; some of them might even consider gambling as their profession. Of course, most avid gamblers don’t play at the lottery, but still a single inadequacy proves my measurement of the poverty level not that well-built.

In conclusion, if one would take OECD countries as basic data sources and would try to find out which country is poorer, the usual estimates based on GDP or polls on the level of poverty will be less resilient as my solution. The ratio between the number of people who play at the lottery and the whole population of one country can be quite helpful in telling us how many people in that country are unhappy with their degree of wealth (i.e. think themselves poor).

Denis Gorea