A study of 20,000 20- to 64-year-olds found that people's satisfaction with their incomes is not strongly correlated ...

samxinghaoli on August 7, 2019

Why E instead of D?

Hi there, I have some trouble understanding the rationale behind E. The question seems like a (from the way I understand it) Must Be True question. The prompt tells us that people's level of satisfaction has has little to do with what income level they belong to but rather how favorably their incomes compare with those of other same-class neighbors. So E says that it is not likely that people's level of satisfaction will increase if everyone's income increases. However, it does not specify the extend to which each one's income increase, so it is perfectly reasonable that some people's incomes may increase by a substantially greater margin than the others from the same class in the same neighborhood , thus making it likely (or at least plausible) that the former's incomes will become more favorable in comparison to the latter. But D, as it seems to me, says exactly what the passage says, which is that the level of satisfaction has little to do with people's income level (people with higher income are not necessarily happier than the lower ones) and it is rather how their incomes compare with the rest in their neighborhood what determine their satisfaction. My apology for the tedious writing, I'm just deeply confused right now.

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Ravi on August 7, 2019


Happy to help. Let's look at (D) and (E).

(D) says, "In general, people’s income levels have little effect on
their level of satisfaction with life as a whole."

The problem with (D) is that the study examined satisfaction with
income specifically, so we cannot extrapolate that to overall life
satisfaction. As a result, (D) is getting a little ahead of itself, so
we can get rid of this choice.

(E) says, "An increase in everyone’s incomes is not likely to greatly
increase people’s levels of satisfaction with their own incomes."

If everyone receives an income raise, then it's not going to change
one's relative position. Additionally, we're told in the stimulus that
true satisfaction comes with one's position relative to their
neighbors. Thus, (E) is strongly supported by the information we have
in the stimulus, so it's the correct answer choice.

Does that make sense? Let us know if you have any other questions!

Irina on August 7, 2019


Great question. Let's briefly look at the argument.

Satisfaction with one's income is not correlated with the amount.
People tend to live in neighborhoods of people from the same class.
Satisfaction with income depends on how favorably incomes compare to those of neighbors.

These "most strongly support" questions are generally best approached as asking us to find a logical conclusion to the argument. The stimulus presents us with the set of facts but it is missing an obvious conclusion. The correct answer choice completes the argument.

Let's look at (D) & (E).

(D) says "Satisfaction with income is strongly correlated with neighborhood"

This is just a restatement of one of the premises, as you correctly pointed out, and is thus incorrect.

(E) says "An increase in everyone's income is not likely to greatly increase people's levels of satisfaction with their own incomes."

If everyone's income increases, it is plausible that some people would move up a socioeconomic class depending on the level of increase and then move to a higher class neighboorhood, but then their level of income is likely to be comparable to their new neighbors, hence their level of satisfaction is unlikely to greatly increase. Notice it is not saying, "definitely will not increase," but "unlikely to greatly increase," which leaves room for these outlier cases that you describe, i.e. a significant increase in income + nlot moving out of the neighborhood like most people.

Does that make sense?

Let me know if you have any further questions.