DP6944 Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox
|Author(s):||Betsey Stevenson, Justin Wolfers|
|Publication Date:||August 2008|
|Keyword(s):||Easterlin Paradox, economic growth, happiness, hedonic treadmill, life satisfaction, quality of life, subjective well-being, well-being-income gradient|
|JEL(s):||D6, I3, J1|
|Programme Areas:||Labour Economics, Public Economics, Development Economics|
|Link to this Page:||cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=6944|
The "Easterlin paradox" suggests that there is no link between a society?s economic development and its average level of happiness. We re-assess this paradox analyzing multiple rich datasets spanning many decades. Using recent data on a broader array of countries, we establish a clear positive link between average levels of subjective well-being and GDP per capita across countries, and find no evidence of a satiation point beyond which wealthier countries have no further increases in subjective well-being. We show that the estimated relationship is consistent across many datasets and is similar to the relationship between subject well-being and income observed within countries. Finally, examining the relationship between changes in subjective well-being and income over time within countries we find economic growth associated with rising happiness. Together these findings indicate a clear role for absolute income and a more limited role for relative income comparisons in determining happiness.