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Income and happiness: Evidence, explanations and economic implications

  • Andrew E. Clark

    (IZA - Institute for the Study of Labor - IZA, 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)

  • Paul Frijters

    (School of Economics and Finance - Queensland University of Technology)

  • Michael A. Shields

    (Departement of Economics - University of Melbourne - University of Melbourne)

There is now a great deal of micro-econometric evidence, both cross-section and panel, showing that income is positively correlated with well-being. Yet the famous Easterlin paradox shows essentially no change in average happiness at the country level, despite spectacular rises in per capita GDP. We argue that survey well-being questions are indeed good proxy measures of utility, and resolve the Easterlin paradox by appealing to income comparisons: these can be to others (social comparisons) or to oneself in the past (habituation). We review a substantial amount of econometric, experimental and neurological literature consistent with comparisons, and then spell out the implications for a wide range of economic issues.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series PSE Working Papers with number halshs-00590436.

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Date of creation: Sep 2006
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Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00590436
Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: http://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00590436
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  1. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R.J.: Oswald, A.J., 1997. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," Papers 19, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  2. repec:dgr:uvatin:20040024 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. van Praag, Bernard M. S., 1991. "Ordinal and cardinal utility : An integration of the two dimensions of the welfare concept," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1-2), pages 69-89, October.
  4. Andrew E. Clark, 2008. "Happiness, habits and high rank: Comparisons in economic and social life," PSE Working Papers halshs-00586049, HAL.
  5. LEVY-GARBOUA, Louis & MONTMARQUETTE, Claude, 1997. "Reported Job Satisfaction : What Does It Mean?," Cahiers de recherche 9705, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  6. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Preferences over inflation and unemployment: Evidence from surveys of happiness," ZEI Working Papers B 03-2001, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn.
  7. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2004. "How Important is Methodology for the estimates of the determinants of Happiness?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 641-659, 07.
  8. 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 071a, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology.
  9. Olof Johansson-Stenman & Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala, 2002. "Measuring Future Grandparents" Preferences for Equality and Relative Standing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 362-383, April.
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