Economist Emily Oster has done the math on what makes her happy:
Before my daughter arrived it hardly ever occurred to me to work less, but since she came along, I’ve given it more thought. I’m pretty happy now, but could I be happier with fewer hours at work? After all, I really enjoy playing with dinosaur stickers and reading “Knuffle Bunny.”
If you asked me which gives me more joy, my work or my family, there is no question that it’s my family. Hands down. If I had to give one up, it wouldn’t even be a contest. And, yet, in a typical workday I spend at least eight hours at my job, sometimes more, and only about three with my family. And, ultimately, I think that’s the time split that makes me happiest.
How can this make sense? Isn’t it obvious that the activity that gives you the most happiness should be the one you do the most? It turns out that happiness doesn’t work that simply, and the answer lies in a principle that economists call “diminishing marginal utility.”
Oster solves her own happiness equation in Sunday’s Pittsburgh Post-Gazette here.