Finding meaning through work: eudaimonic well-being and job type in the US and UK

Andrew Bryce

Abstract

Eudaimonic well-being is an important component of utility that reflects people’s preferences for having purpose and meaning in their lives. This paper presents analysis from the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) and the UK Annual Population Survey (APS) to show that the extent to which people find their work meaningful is significantly determined by the type of job they have. Much of the existing literature in this area provides theoretical or qualitative evidence, or evidence from small scale surveys, to identify the aspects of a job most conducive to eudaimonic well-being. This paper is the first to establish large scale quantitative evidence of the effects of job type on eudaimonic well-being across the whole population, based on two large national datasets. I find that jobs that combine professional autonomy with having a direct social impact within the context of a trusting relationship are found to be the most meaningful and worthwhile, controlling for selection into these jobs. These findings have some interesting implications for how wages are set in different labour markets.