A nice fat paycheck is all well and good, but new research has revealed a surprising price tag on the job satisfaction that comes with working at a nonprofit organization: almost $40,000!
The study, which was published in the Journal of Economic Psychology, compared the happiness levels of people who worked at nonprofit organizations with those who worked at your average for-profit business job. Even after controlling for relevant influences such as marital status and education, the researchers found that those who worked in the nonprofit field — or third sector, as it's commonly called in Europe — were happier with their jobs and their lives, than their profit-working peers. Nonprofit employees even seemed to enjoy their day-to-day activities more and were more likely to feel they were living useful lives.
For the study, researchers combed through data collected as part of the British Household Panel Survey from 1996 to 2008, which included responses from 12,786 people employed in private firms and 966 people who worked at nonprofit organizations. Participants answered a wide range of questions about their work and job satisfaction as well as their overall agreeableness and happiness in life. The study's authors estimated that a person who worked at a for-profit business would need to earn an extra £27,000 per year (around $40,000 in U.S. dollars) to be as happy as a similar person who worked for a nonprofit.
Researchers found a nonprofit worker's job satisfaction was still greater than someone working in the for-profit field, regardless of their happiness levels prior to starting the job. This debunks the theory that happier people are simply more likely work in nonprofit jobs.
The study also noted that women and those with advanced degrees were more likely to work in the third sector.
So does this mean you should quit your job and go work for a charity? Not necessarily. Martin Binder, a professor at Berlin's Bard College and a lead researcher for the study commented, "The question of self-selection needs to be further explored before one can generali[z]e that everybody would be happier when working in the third sector."
In other words, the nonprofit field may not be a good fit for everyone. But it's good to know that those who choose careers at nonprofit organizations gain a side perk of happiness that's worth its weight in dollars.