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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 - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - École des Ponts ParisTech (ENPC))

  • 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
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  1. Clark, Andrew E., 2011. "Happiness, Habits and High Rank: Comparisons in Economic and Social Life," IZA Discussion Papers 5966, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. 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.
  3. LEVY-GARBOUA, Louis & MONTMARQUETTE, Claude, 1997. "Reported Job Satisfaction : What Does It Mean?," Cahiers de recherche 9705, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  4. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2002. "How important is Methodology for the Estimates of the Determinants of Happiness?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 02-024/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  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, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
  6. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R.J.: Oswald, A.J., 1997. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," Papers 19, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
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