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Adaptation amidst Prosperity and Adversity: Insights from Happiness Studies from around the World

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  • Carol Graham

Abstract

Some individuals who are destitute report to be happy, while others who are very wealthy report to be miserable. There are many possible explanations for this paradox; the author focuses on the role of adaptation. Adaptation is the subject of much work in economics, but its definition is a psychological one. Adaptations are defense mechanisms; there are bad ones like paranoia, and healthy ones like humor, anticipation, and sublimation. Set point theory--which is the subject of much debate in psychology--posits that people can adapt to anything, such as bad health, divorce, and extreme poverty, and return to a natural level of cheerfulness. The author's research from around the world suggests that people are remarkably adaptable. Respondents in Afghanistan are as happy as Latin Americans and 20 percent more likely to smile in a day than Cubans. The findings suggest that while this may be a good thing from an individual psychological perspective, it may also shed insights into different development outcomes, including collective tolerance for bad equilibrium. The author provides examples from the economics, democracy, crime, corruption, and health arenas. Copyright 2011, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Carol Graham, 2011. "Adaptation amidst Prosperity and Adversity: Insights from Happiness Studies from around the World," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 26(1), pages 105-137, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:wbrobs:v:26:y:2011:i:1:p:105-137
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/wbro/lkq004
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Jacopo Baggio & Elissaios Papyrakis, 2014. "Agent-Based Simulations of Subjective Well-Being," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 115(2), pages 623-635, January.
    2. Edsel Beja, 2014. "Income growth and happiness: reassessment of the Easterlin Paradox," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 61(4), pages 329-346, December.
    3. repec:spr:jhappi:v:19:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10902-016-9807-0 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. repec:beh:jbepv1:v:1:y:2017:i:1:p:69-72 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Nikolova, Milena, 2016. "Happiness and Development," IZA Discussion Papers 10088, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Iddisah Sulemana, 2015. "The Effect of Fear of Crime and Crime Victimization on Subjective Well-Being in Africa," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 121(3), pages 849-872, April.
    7. Iddisah Sulemana, 2015. "An Empirical Investigation of the Relationship Between Social Capital and Subjective Well-Being in Ghana," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 16(5), pages 1299-1321, October.
    8. Carol Graham, 2015. "A Review of William Easterly's The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(1), pages 92-101, March.
    9. B. Mak ARVIN & Byron LEW, 2012. "Development Aid, Corruption, and the Happiness of Nations: Analysis of 118 countries over the years 1996-2009," Applied Econometrics and International Development, Euro-American Association of Economic Development, vol. 12(2).
    10. Frijters, Paul & Johnston, David W. & Shields, Michael A. & Sinha, Kompal, 2015. "A lifecycle perspective of stock market performance and wellbeing," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 237-250.
    11. Edsel Beja, 2012. "Subjective Well-Being Approach to Environmental Valuation: Evidence for Greenhouse Gas Emissions," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 109(2), pages 243-266, November.

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