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Will GDP growth increase happiness in developing countries?

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  • Andrew E. Clark

    (EEP-PSE - Ecole d'Économie de Paris - Paris School of Economics - Ecole d'Économie de Paris, PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - CNRS : UMR8545 - École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) - École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC) - École normale supérieure [ENS] - Paris - Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA), IZA - Institute for the Study of Labor - IZA)

  • Claudia Senik

    (EEP-PSE - Ecole d'Économie de Paris - Paris School of Economics - Ecole d'Économie de Paris, PSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - CNRS : UMR8545 - École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) - École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC) - École normale supérieure [ENS] - Paris - Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA), UP4 - Université Paris 4, Paris-Sorbonne - Université Paris IV - Paris Sorbonne - Ministère de l'Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche Scientifique)

Abstract

This paper asks what low-income countries can expect from growth in terms of happiness. It interprets the set of available international evidence pertaining to the relationship between income growth and subjective well-being. Conforming to the Easterlin paradox, higher income always correlates with higher happiness, except in one case: whether national income growth yields higher well-being is still hotly debated; essentially, the question is whether the correlation coefficient is "too small to matter". The explanations for the small correlation between income growth and subjective well-being over time appeal to the nature of growth itself (e.g. negative side-effects such as pollution), and to the psychological importance of relative concerns and adaptation. The available evidence contains two important lessons: income comparisons do seem to affect subjective well-being even in very poor countries; however, adaptation may be more of a rich country phenomenon. Our stand is that the idea that growth will increase happiness in low-income countries cannot be rejected on the basis of the available evidence. First, cross-country time-series analyses are based on aggregate measures, which are less reliable than individual ones. Second, development is a qualitative process that involves take-offs and thresholds. Such regime changes are eye-visible through the lens of subjective satisfaction measures. The case of Transition countries is particularly impressive in this respect: average life satisfaction scores closely mirror changes in GDP for about the first ten years of the transition process, until the regime becomes more stable. If subjective measures of well-being were made available in low-income countries, they would certainly help measuring and monitoring the different stages and dimensions of the development process.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by HAL in its series PSE Working Papers with number halshs-00564985.

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Date of creation: Nov 2010
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Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00564985

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Keywords: income ; subjective well-being ; comparisons ; adaptation ; development;

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  1. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2004. "How Important is Methodology for the estimates of the determinants of Happiness?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 641-659, 07.
  2. Vinod Mishra & Ingrid Nielsen & Russell Smyth, 2010. "Relative Income, Temporary Life Shocks and Subjective Wellbeing in the Long-run," Development Research Unit Working Paper Series, Monash University, Department of Economics 51-10, Monash University, Department of Economics.
  3. Akay, Alpaslan & Martinsson, Peter, 2010. "Does relative income matter for the very poor? - Evidence from rural Ethiopia," Working Papers in Economics, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics 475, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  4. Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2008. "Gross national happiness as an answer to the Easterlin Paradox?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 22-42, April.
  5. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
  6. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2005. "Happiness and the Human Development Index: The Paradox of Australia," IZA Discussion Papers 1601, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Olof Johansson-Stenman & Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala, 2002. "Measuring Future Grandparents" Preferences for Equality and Relative Standing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 362-383, April.
  8. Easterlin, Richard A., 2009. "Lost in transition: Life satisfaction on the road to capitalism," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 71(2), pages 130-145, August.
  9. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R.J.: Oswald, A.J., 1997. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," Papers, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics 19, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  10. Bernard M.S. van Praag & Paul Frijters, 1999. "The measurement of welfare and well-being; the Leyden approach," School of Economics and Finance Discussion Papers and Working Papers Series, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology 071a, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology.
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Cited by:
  1. Nadir Preziosi, 2013. "Life is Getting Worse in ESS Data: Is This Due to Micro or Macro Factors?," Bruges European Economic Research Papers, European Economic Studies Department, College of Europe 28, European Economic Studies Department, College of Europe.
  2. Xavier Fontaine, 2011. "Envy and Hope," Working Papers hal-00616993, HAL.
  3. Andrew E. Clark, 2012. "Happiness, Habits and High Rank: Comparisons in Economic and Social Life," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 452, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  4. Xavier Fontaine & Katsunori Yamada, 2012. "Economic Comparison and Group Identity: Lessons from India," PSE Working Papers hal-00711212, HAL.
  5. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00707290 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Senik, Claudia, 2011. "The French Unhappiness Puzzle: The Cultural Dimension of Happiness," IZA Discussion Papers 6175, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Andrew E. Clark & Conchita D'Ambrosio, 2014. "Attitudes to Income Inequality: Experimental and Survey Evidence," PSE Working Papers halshs-00967938, HAL.
  8. Andrew E. Clark & Sarah Flèche & Claudia Senik, 2012. "The Great Happiness Moderation," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 468, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  9. Beja Jr., Edsel, 2013. "Does economic prosperity bring about a happier society? Empirical remarks on the Easterlin Paradox debate," MPRA Paper 49446, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Beja Jr., Edsel, 2013. "Does economic prosperity bring about a happier society? Empirical remarks on the Easterlin Paradox debate sans Happiness Adaptation," MPRA Paper 50633, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  11. repec:hal:wpaper:hal-00711212 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Falco, Paolo & Maloney, William F. & Rijkers, Bob & Sarrias, Mauricio, 2012. "Heterogeneity in subjective wellbeing : an application to occupational allocation in Africa," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6244, The World Bank.

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