America was founded on the principle that people should have the opportunity to flourish, to live out their dreams – to be happy. Our country’s forefathers cherished this important truth so much they included it in the United States’ Declaration of Independence. America was designed as a place where all citizens have “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

While people search for satisfaction in life in various ways, employment continues to top the list as a measurement of happiness.

“In America, job satisfaction relates to life satisfaction. Among those who say they are very happy in their lives, 95 percent are also satisfied with their jobs,” writes Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, in his book The Road to Freedom. “Only 5 percent say they are not satisfied with their work. The evidence also shows that the relationship is causal: job satisfaction actually increases life happiness.”

While not everyone has their dream job, working allows people to achieve something greater than themselves.

In the recently published book The Human Cost of Welfare, authors Phil Harvey and Lisa Conyers address the many reasons why work is so instrumental in fostering happiness. The book’s authors conclude that job achievement is needed for personal worth. Boredom and depression can result from lack of work, and being needed makes people feel valued and important. Depending on others for basic daily living needs decreases self-worth.

At Georgia Center for Opportunity, our goal is to help individuals flourish through productive work. More than half a million Georgians are without work, but desire the opportunity to succeed. Through extensive research and collaboration with community leaders, state lawmakers and businesses, we’ve been able to help improve work opportunities for ex-offenders. We’re also exploring practical options for real reforms to Georgia’s Welfare System, in hopes of motivating recipients to self-sufficiency.

Through collaboration with community partners, area nonprofits, local businesses, and community leaders, GCO has facilitated a series of “Hiring Well, Doing Good” discussions within the Atlanta area. These conversations give local business and organizations an opportunity to connect and share their best-practices for hiring unemployed or underemployed men and women while improving a company’s bottom line.

The evidence remains true even for part-time workers and those not receiving large paychecks. Brooks’ research shows that “[A]dults who worked ten hours a week or more in 2002, 89 percent said they were very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their jobs. … There is no difference between those with below- and above-average incomes: 89 percent are satisfied.”

It’s quite clear that working is far more valuable than just the paycheck received at the end of the day.

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