Would U.S. adults rather have a low-paying job that they love or a high-paying job that they hate?

Linley SandersData Journalist
March 16, 2023, 2:21 PM GMT+0

Which is preferable: a high-paying job that you detest or a low-paying job that you enjoy? While high pay and high levels of enjoyment are not always mutually exclusive, YouGov asked more than 33,000 U.S. adults what they would choose if they had to pick one. Twice as many Americans (50%) say they would opt for a low-paying job that brings them joy as say they would prefer a high-paying job that they dislike (26%).

That preference varies by age, with older adults being more likely than younger ones to say they are willing to sacrifice a high salary for a job they love. While most Americans who are older than 55 (59%) say that they would take a low-paying job they love over a high-paying job they hate, that preference decreases with age. Adults 25 and younger are divided: 40% would take a low salary if it came with a fulfilling job while 39% would opt for a high income with a position they hate.

Women (52%) and men (48%) are similarly likely to say that they would prefer a low-paying job that they love rather than a higher salary for a job they hate.

Perhaps one reason why older adults are more willing to pursue a fulfilling, low-pay job is that they are generally less worried about money or financial security. Just 12% of people 65 and older say that they have worried about money "multiple times a day" over the last week, compared to 28% of 18- to 29-year-olds. Half of people 65 and older (47%) say they have not worried about their financial security "at all" over the last week, whereas just 12% of 18- to 29-year-olds haven't worried.

Younger adults also are more likely to believe that having more money generally leads to more happiness. Most Americans (62%) think that an increase in funds leads to "much more" or "somewhat more" happiness, but 72% of 18- to 29-year-olds say this. Just 53% of U.S. adults who are 65 and older agree. Adults under 30 are four times as likely as ones 65 and older to say having more money leads to much more happiness.

— Taylor Orth and Carl Bialik contributed to this article

Methodology: This survey was conducted online on March 10 - 13, 2023 among 33,735 U.S. adults. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, U.S. census region, and political party.

See results of this poll:


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