Financial Scarcity is Linked to Higher Negative Affect Variability and Reduced Well-Being

Jon Jachimowicz*, Erin Frey, Sandra Matz, Bertus F. Jeronimus, Adam Galinsky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperAcademic


Prior research converges on finding a relationship between income and affect, but its nature and form remains unclear. The current research distentangles the complex findings from previous studies by shifting the focus away from average affect to affect variability, i.e., individual fluctuations in happiness or sadness over time. Using two experience sampling studies—including a pre-registered replication—with 962 participants and 58,241 observations, we show that people with lower incomes report higher levels of negative affect variability but not higher levels of mean negative affect. Importantly, higher negative affect variability was associated with reduced well-being. We additionally provide suggestive evidence for a causal link between income and negative affect variability by showing that low-income individuals experience particularly high negative affect variability when encountering heightened financial strain, i.e., in the week leading up to their monthly pay-check. Money may not make people happier but may attenuate the variability of negative affect.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1-Jan-2019


  • Financial scarcity
  • Negative affect
  • Well-being
  • Money
  • Happiness
  • Health

Cite this