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The Conflictive Relationship between Satisfaction and Income

  • Eduardo Lora
  • Juan Camilo Chaparro

Using the 2006 Gallup World Survey of life satisfaction in 130 countries, this paper finds a very solid relationship between satisfaction and income (both across and within countries) and uncovers the unhappy growth paradox, whereby faster growth rates are accompanied by lower levels of satisfaction. The losses of satisfaction associated with growth are more pronounced in the material domains of life and are greater in richer and more urban societies. At the individual level, although higher incomes tend to be reflected in greater satisfaction, an increase in the income of the social group to which an individual belongs has the opposite effect. The conflictive relationship between satisfaction and income has implications for political economy and may help explain various characteristics of economic and social populism.

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Paper provided by Inter-American Development Bank in its series IDB Publications (Working Papers) with number 6752.

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Date of creation: Nov 2008
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Handle: RePEc:idb:brikps:6752
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  1. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2005. "How much do we care about absolute versus relative income and consumption?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 405-421, March.
  2. Ed Diener & Ed Sandvik & Larry Seidlitz & Marissa Diener, 1993. "The relationship between income and subjective well-being: Relative or absolute?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 195-223, March.
  3. Luttmer, Erzo F. P., 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," Working Paper Series rwp04-029, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  4. Eduardo Lora & Ugo Panizza, 2002. "Structural Reforms in Latin America under Scrutiny," Research Department Publications 4301, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  5. Geeta G. Kingdon & John Knight, 2004. "Community, Comparisons and Subjective Well-being in a Divided Society," CSAE Working Paper Series 2004-21, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
  6. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2005. "Income and well-being: an empirical analysis of the comparison income effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 997-1019, June.
  7. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 39(1 (Spring), pages 1-102.
  8. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R.J.: Oswald, A.J., 1997. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," Papers 19, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  9. Stutzer, Alois, 2004. "The role of income aspirations in individual happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 89-109, May.
  10. Christopher J. Ruhm, 1996. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," NBER Working Papers 5570, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Carlsson, Fredrik & Gupta, Gautam & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2005. "Keeping Up with the Vaishyas: Caste and Relative Standing," Working Papers in Economics 171, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
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