Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happiness by occupation

As I've been on a happiness trip as of late, it seemed natural to look at happiness levels by occupation. The GSS uses the international standard classification of occupations (ISCO88) to record the occupations of respondents and routinely asks a three point question on self-assessed personal happiness. To facilitate comprehension, scores are inverted so that higher values indicate greater levels of happiness. To achieve some level of statistical rigor, only occupations with more than 35 respondents are included:

Occupation
Happiness
1. Clergyman
2.66
2. Actor
2.51
3. Architect
2.47
4. Firefighter
2.44
5. Police officer
2.40
6. Physician
2.39
7. Teacher
2.38
7. Economist
2.38
7. Real estate agent
2.38
10. Electrical engineer
2.37
10. College professor
2.37
12. Accountant
2.36
13. Sales representative
2.35
14. Dental hygienist
2.33
15. Civil engineer
2.31
15. Bricklayer
2.31
17. Computer systems analyst
2.30
17. Registered nurse
2.30
17. Insurance agent
2.30
17. Secretary
2.30
21. Attorney
2.29
21. Psychologist
2.29
21. Child care worker
2.29
24. Government official
2.28
24. Stockbroker
2.28
26. Social worker
2.27
26. Engineering technician
2.27
26. Bank teller
2.27
26. Receptionist
2.27
30. Bus driver
2.26
31. Author
2.25
31. Physical therapist
2.25
33. Maid
2.24
34. Computer programmer
2.23
34. Mechanical engineer
2.23
36. Mail carrier
2.22
36. Barber
2.22
36. Butcher
2.22
39. Stenographer
2.21
39. Electrician
2.21
41. Librarian
2.19
41. Retail salesman
2.19
41. Plumber
2.19
41. Tool-and-die maker
2.19
41. Taxi driver
2.19
41. Truck driver
2.19
47. Carpet and tile installer
2.17
47. Sheet metal worker
2.17
49. Artist (fine art)
2.16
49. Welder
2.16
51.Telephone operator
2.15
51. Waiter
2.15
51. Security guard
2.15
51. Painter
2.15
55. Licensed practical nurse
2.14
56. Aircraft mechanic
2.12
57. Forklift operator
2.09
58. Cashier
2.08
58. Automobile mechanic
2.08
60. Data entry clerk
2.07
61. Construction worker
1.98
62. Janitor
1.93

Once again, religiosity and happiness appear to go hand-in-hand. One standard deviation is .62 on the happiness scale, so clergymen claim to be a lot happier than the bulk of people in other occupations.

People doing professional work that requires more brain than brawn cluster near the top, while the most menial job doers settle at the bottom (sorry Office Space fans!). The blue collar occupations of policeman and firefighter are exceptions to this loose rule. To the extent that the amount of personal fulfillment found in one's job correlates with happiness, this doesn't seem surprising--these guys are making war on the forces that hurt innocent people. They aren't routinely referred to as heroes for nothing.

There also appears to be a positive relationship between how publicly esteemed members of an occupation are and how happy those people actually say they are--pastors, policemen, firefighters, actors, and doctors are all in the upper echelons, while stockbrokers, computer programmers, and lawyers fall somewhere in the middle of the pack, despite these middling occupations providing their practitioners with good working conditions and compensation.

Speaking of esteem, that janitors come in at rock bottom brings to mind Principal Skinner's contempt for the unglamorous work:
Principal Skinner (to Nelson): All right, Mr. Smartenheimer, that does it. First, you're going to give back everything you've stolen. Then, I'm sentencing you to one week of the lowest, most degrading work known to man - janitorial work.

Groundskeeper Willie: Ah, geez. I'm standing right here, sir.

Principal Skinner: Ah, yes. Uh ... Take a good look at him, Nelson, 'cause that's where you're headed.

GSS variables used: ISCO88, HAPPY

5 comments:

Wm Jas said...

What's the overall mean happiness rating?

Anonymous said...

The blue collar occupations of policeman and firefighter are exceptions to this loose rule. To the extent that the amount of personal fulfillment found in one's job correlates with happiness, this doesn't seem surprising--these guys are making war on the forces that hurt innocent people."

The excellent pay and benefits probably doesn't hurt.

Audacious Epigone said...

Wm Jas,

It's 2.22--the butcher, the barber, and the mailman. Sounds about right, eh?

Wm Jas said...

So in standard scores, the average happiness ranges from 0.71 (clergyman) to -0.47 (janitor).

Anonymous said...

Architect comes at the top surely because the small sample taken consists of those who actually succeeded in their profession to still call themselves ARCHITECTS.

A similar saying goes that architects live longer. The fact is that an architect needs to make it into old age to be trusted the signature of a major work.
Many architects begin their careers at about 40, it requires maturity.
Maybe the best architect in history, ¨Kenzo Tange, began his caareer only after 20 years of being a professional wrestler!