Americans Value Money More than Friendship, Survey Reveals

Americans find more meaning in money than their friends, according to a survey. Getty Images

What do you value most in life? According to a survey, Americans are more likely to answer "money" than "friendship."

The Pew Research Center surveyed almost 5,000 Americans and concluded the majority found meaning in their families, at 69 percent. But only 19 percent listed their friends, compared with 34 percent who highlighted their careers and 23 percent who chose to highlight money.

One fifth responded spirituality and faith, and 19 percent activities and hobbies. Health scored 16 percent, followed by home and surroundings at 13, with learning at 11 percent.

A person's political and religious leanings colored their answers, the researchers noted. Family was the most popular topic across the board. But respondents who said they had conservative values were more likely to gain meaning from religion than liberals, who found were fulfilled by creativity and causes.

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Highly educated Americans with high household incomes were more likely to value friendship, good health, travel and stability than others. And evangelicals gained most meaning in faith, compared with atheists who chose activities and finances.

Fixed-question surveys aren't always especially illuminating, and pinpointing what provides a population with meaning is tough, researchers explained in an analysis of their findings.

The center therefore tried to take a different approach, by polling a group of U.S. adults in two separate surveys in late 2017. In one round, the participants were asked to describe what makes their life satisfying, fulfilling and meaningful. A second round of closed questions saw participants rate the meaning and fulfillment they gain from 15 different sources.

When researchers sifted through the longer answers, they found respondents wrote 41 words on average. But some offered up answers lasting hundreds of words.

These gave a window into the shared and divergent sources of meaning for Americans.

"Family, God, friends, guns, that order," wrote one survey participant.

"I enjoy birding with other people. You can always learn something new about birds," was another's answer.

"I want to get to a point in my life," wrote another, "not where I am rich, but I can go to the grocery store, the gas station, the movies, or go on vacation, and not have to worry about the amount of money in my bank account. I want it to be an afterthought. I am getting closer to this dream, and that is what is keeping me going."