Social Indicators Research

, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 127-162

First online:

Is the Good Life the Easy Life?

  • Christie Napa ScollonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Illinois
  • , Laura A. KingAffiliated withUniversity of Missouri

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Three studies examined folk concepts of the good life. Participantsrated the desirability and moral goodness of a life as a function of thehappiness, meaning, and effort experienced. Happiness and meaning weresolid predictors of the good life, replicating King and Napa (1998).Study 1 (N = 381) included wealth as an additional factor. Resultsshowed little desire for exorbitant (over moderate) wealth, but also adesire to avoid poverty. When effort was operationalized as number ofhours worked, respondents desired the easy life, particularly atmoderate levels of income. When effort was operationalized as effortfulengagement (Study 2), 186 undergraduates and 178 community adults ratedthe hardworking life as morally superior to the easy life. Communityadults preferred meaningful lives of ease, while college studentspreferred meaningful lives that involved effort. Study 3 (N = 359) foundthe meaningful, effortful life was rated as most morally good, and thehappy effortful life was rated as most desirable, happy, and meaningful.The role of hard work in naïve notions of The Good Life is discussed.