First of all, cheeriness is a relatively modern social invention. Dour and doleful were better ways to describe Americans 200 years ago, says sociologist Claude Fischer, drawing on research conducted by Christina Kotchemidova. Fischer wrote about American cheeriness in his blog, Made in America. We featured his book by the same title on OurValues.org in July of this year.
During the 19th century, Americans cultivated cheeriness, dumping the dour displays. “By the 20th century, cheerfulness was almost a social requirement and a theme in our commercial culture,” says Fischer. “Marriage guides expected women to be always upbeat; businessmen found profit in being nice to customers; how-to-succeed manuals stressed being cheery as a way to get a job and sell a product.”
But American cheeriness has fallen recently, another outcome of the economic recession. This is especially true for Americans without college degrees, says Fischer, looking at happiness trends from 1973 to 2010. Happiness for those with college degrees hasn’t changed much one way or the other. Those without college educations, however, have seen their happiness plummet during economic downturns, especially our current one. “In the current era,” says Fischer, “Americans’ cheer is limited by harsher circumstances, especially for those facing the harshest circumstances.”
How cheery are you lately?
Have you witnessed a decline in cheeriness around you?
PLEASE, ADD A COMMENT BELOW ….
AND, Connect with other OurValues readers via Facebook!
CLICK ON the “Now You Can Find Us on Facebook” link in the right-hand column.
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.