You know what's great about making $19,000 a year catering to obscenely wealthy art collectors? When the recession hits, you can laugh at your laid-off banker friends!

For the first time in the history of surveys about how poor people feel, poor people are happier than rich people. The New York Times found four living examples at Christie's, the art auction house, starting with 24-year-old Claudia "Charlie" Adamski (above):

But for Ms. Adamski and other young women (they are mostly women) in the glamorous world of New York's auction houses, the downturn has hidden benefits in the form of a social correction that puts them on more equal footing with their friends working - or formerly working - on Wall Street.

Art professionals said that Ivy Leaguers with master's degrees typically earn $19,000 for a junior position to $50,000 for a midlevel specialist at an auction house, perhaps a fifth of what peers make working in law or banking. Now, with so many who chose the more lucrative paths unemployed, Ms. Adamski and others say there is less pressure to spend, spend, spend.

In the wake of the panic of '08, the hedonic treadmill of upwardly mobile New Yorkers has ground to a halt. It's no longer the case that rich people find it harder to make themselves happy with material goods; the poor actually find themselves better off. Adamski now brown-bags it with feta-and-cucumber salads. Which, when you think about it, sounds more enjoyable than an unsold Warhol painting.

Of course, the same newspaper that published this article also detailed how impossible it was for bankers to live on a mere $500,000 a year.

(Photo by Brian Palmer/The New York Times)