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Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness… Or Does It? A Reconsideration Based on the Combined Effects of Wealth, Income and Consumption

  • Headey, Bruce


    (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research)

  • Muffels, Ruud


    (Tilburg University)

  • Wooden, Mark


    (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research)

The accepted view among psychologists and economists alike is that economic well-being has a statistically significant but only weak effect on happiness/subjective well-being (SWB). This view is based almost entirely on weak relationships with household income. The paper uses household economic panel data from five countries – Australia, Britain, Germany, Hungary and the Netherlands – to provide a reconsideration of the impact of economic wellbeing on happiness. The main conclusion is that happiness is considerably more affected by economic circumstances than previously believed. In all five countries wealth affects life satisfaction more than income. In the countries for which consumption data are available (Britain and Hungary), non-durable consumption expenditures also prove at least as important to happiness as income. Further, results from panel regression fixed effects models indicate that changes in wealth, income and consumption all produce significant, though not large, changes in satisfaction levels.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1218.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2004
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in: Social Indicators Research, 2008, 87(1), 65-82
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1218
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  1. Barrett, Garry F & Crossley, Thomas F & Worswick, Christopher, 2000. "Consumption and Income Inequality in Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 76(233), pages 116-38, June.
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  12. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  13. Coulter, Fiona A E & Cowell, Frank A & Jenkins, Stephen P, 1992. "Equivalence Scale Relativities and the Extent of Inequality and Poverty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 102(414), pages 1067-82, September.
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  15. van Praag, Bernard M S & Hagenaars, Aldi J M & van Weeren, Hans, 1982. "Poverty in Europe," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 28(3), pages 345-59, September.
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