Better Happy Than Rich?: Canadians, Money and the Meaning of Life


214 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 0-670-88898-2
DDC 306.3




Reviewed by Jeffrey Moon

Jeffrey Moon is head of the Documents Reference/Data Centre at Queen’s


Better Happy Than Rich? provides a “poll-side” view of Canadian
values and how they shape us as individuals and as a nation. Written by
Environics cofounder Michael Adams, the book is based on the company’s
3SC (Socio-Cultural) surveys. Over the past 20 years, these surveys have
tracked Canadians’ gradual movement from “traditional” to more
“modern” values.

Expanding on this, Adams postulates 13 “tribes,” into one of which
each of us is supposed to “fit.” These tribes were developed using
factor analysis of responses to the 3SC surveys. This analysis, roughly
speaking, is based on our placement along two axes: the
traditional/nontraditional axis, and the inner-directed/outer-directed
(social) axis. Depending on where you fall on these axes, you are
classified into one of the 13 tribes.

Readers are encouraged to go on-line and try an abbreviated version of
the 3SC survey, which is designed—much like Harry Potter’s
“sorting hat”—to place you in your inherent “tribe.” I tried
this, and found my initial placement a bit off. I did find, however,
that one of the three suggested alternative placements accurately
reflected my values. Conveniently, Adams provides the proportion of
people in a given demographic (boomers, Gen-Xers, etc.) who are
represented in each tribe; I found this comforting as I was not alone
among boomers in holding the values common to my adopted “tribe.”

Underpinning the “tribal” premise of the book is the primacy of
money in defining our value systems: how we make money, spend it, save
it, and pay taxes on it. This theme is explored between tribes, between
generations, and between Canadians and Americans. All of this makes for
interesting and often provocative reading. Adams is not afraid to
challenge common beliefs, and he backs up his arguments with data.

For those who can “find themselves” in one of Adams’s
tribes—and that should include most of us—Better Happy Than Rich?
will prove fascinating reading.


Adams, Michael., “Better Happy Than Rich?: Canadians, Money and the Meaning of Life,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 14, 2024,