Survey: 54% of Americans would choose lower taxes over happiness

It may come as a surprise that set against a global backdrop, Americans are not all that happy. But according to the 2018 World Happiness Report, a ranking of 156 countries based on their happiness levels by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the United States lags far behind many of our peers in terms of the measurements that indicate wellbeing.

These “key variables” include “income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, and generosity,” according to the report. The U.S. ranks behind Costa Rica, Israel, Iceland, Australia, and Canada, among others, to claim the 18th spot on the list. The country with the highest happiness ranking from 2015-2017 is Finland, and the country that ranks lowest is Burundi.

Among the nations that beat out the United States for top spots, there is at least one major commonality. Eighty-two percent of them have higher income taxes, according to law firm Lexington Law.

But, when choosing between happiness and lower taxes, it seems most Americans still settle on the latter.

Lexington Law surveyed at least 1,000 people per question to gauge how willing the American people are to pay more taxes if it would mean a better life. The poll indicated that 54% of people would not pay more in taxes, “even if it would improve their happiness.”

By political issue, the numbers become even more dramatic. Seventy-five percent of people said they would not pay higher taxes for universal healthcare, which aligns with other polling. Despite the fact that a majority of Americans like Medicare-for-All in theory, their interest cools when they realize the program would mean more cuts to their paycheck.

Similarly, only 11% of Americans are willing to pay more to the government for national paid parental leave. “Men are 63% less likely to be in favor of paying higher taxes for parental leave,” according to Lexington Law, while people of childbearing age, no matter their gender, are three times more likely to go for it.

Similar to healthcare, when Americans see the cost of paid parental leave, they become far less eager to implement the policy.

These results may be confusing — why, if we support an idea, are we unwilling to see it through? But attaching the price tag to a concept brings home the political reality, and Americans seem indisposed to implement the kinds of practices that make countries such as Finland, Norway, and Denmark so well-regarded in terms of quality of life.