Even those with less than P10,000 monthly income can afford to be happy.
Study results generally indicate that the impact of income on happiness is rather minute. The latest research supports the previous claim that an increase in income increases happiness marginally—but there exists a certain threshold level; a monthly income of about P20,000. Beyond that, income ceases to increase happiness.
This is based on the research on “Income and Happiness: A Philippine Context,” which investigated the relationship between income and happiness in Koronadal, South Cotabato.
While household income is used to measure economic welfare, self-reported or subjective happiness was used as measure of happiness. Koronadal City, formerly Marbel, is a component city and capital of the province of South Cotabato.
“The research shows that people in Koronadal, a low-income, semi-urban city in Mindanao, are generally happy even with low incomes, which is consistent with the happy poor image of the Filipino poor. As they are already happy and content with their lives, to begin with, the increase in happiness due to income is marginal and yet somewhat negligible in the practical sense,” according to Rosalina Palanca-Tan of the Department of Economics, Ateneo de Manila University, who conducted the study.
The survey found that on a scale of 0–10, the average reported happiness is 6.75, which is quite above the neutral score of 5.
Even the lowest income group, those with a monthly household income of less than P10,000, which is actually below the subsistence income level, has surprisingly a mean happiness score of 6.31.
Participants to the study are household heads, or the member traditionally making expenditure decisions in the family from the 27 barangays of Koronadal.
They had an average monthly household income of P19,444, which is reasonably close to the regional average household income of PHP 20,229, but is substantially lower than the Philippine Statistics Authority’s national average of PHP 26,112.
Other factors that significantly contribute to happiness such as the number of bedrooms, ownership of mobile phones, savings, loans, and membership in cooperatives were also looked into.
Results suggest that more than the level of income, financial security and stability, such as having savings and not having outstanding loans to worry about, and being a member of a credit cooperative to which people can run to in case of financial need, also contribute to people’s well-being, relatively.
Interestingly, the study on the effect of the conditional transfer program of the national government, a direct income transfer, was found to have no significant influence on happiness in Koronadal.
Overall, the results suggest that other programs, for instance, increasing accessibility and affordability of goods and services that make daily life convenient and comfortable, as well as free of financial uncertainties and worries, may be more effective in raising people’s life-satisfaction or well-being than direct income-augmenting programs.
These findings shed light on some socially favorable economic and institutional conditions that can help provide directions to government officials and policymakers in terms of formulating and implementing more effective social programs that can eventually improve the lives of many Filipinos.
The complete discussion and results of this study will be available soon and can eventually be downloaded for free from the Philippine Journal of Science (PJS).
The PJS is the Philippines’ oldest peer-reviewed scientific journal, published by the Department of Science and Technology- Science and Technology Information Institute. Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin/S&T Media Service,