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Happiness Adaptation to Income beyond "Basic Needs"

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  • Rafael Di Tella
  • Robert MacCulloch

Abstract

We test for whether, once "basic needs" are satisfied, there is happiness adaptation to further gains in income using three data sets. Individual German Panel Data from 1985-2000, and data on the well-being of over 600,000 people in a panel of European countries from 1975-2002, shows different patterns of adaptation to income across the rich and poor. We find evidence that for wealthy Germans, and for the rich half of European nations, higher levels of per capita income don't buy greater happiness. The reason appears to be adaptation. However even for the rich half of European nations such habituation may take over 5 years so the happiness gains that they experience, whilst not permanent, can still be relatively long-lasting. Finally we study a cross section of nations in 2005 from the World Gallup Poll and find that the past 45 years of economic growth (from 1960-2005) in the rich half of nations has not brought happiness gains above those that were already in place once the 1960s standard of living had been achieved. However in the poorest half of nations we cannot reject the null hypothesis that the happiness gains they have experienced from the past 45 years of growth have been the same as the gains that they experienced from growth prior to the 1960s.

Suggested Citation

  • Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2008. "Happiness Adaptation to Income beyond "Basic Needs"," NBER Working Papers 14539, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14539
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2013. "Subjective Well-Being and Income: Is There Any Evidence of Satiation?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 598-604, May.
    2. Duha T. Altindag & Junyue Xu, 2009. "The Impact of Institutions and Development on Happiness," Departmental Working Papers 2009-17, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.
    3. Worawan Chandoevwit & Kannika Thampanishvong, 2016. "Valuing Social Relationships and Improved Health Condition Among the Thai Population," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(5), pages 2167-2189, October.
    4. Pedersen, Peder J. & Schmidt, Torben Dall, 2009. "Happiness in Europe: Cross-Country Differences in the Determinants of Subjective Well-Being," IZA Discussion Papers 4538, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Luz Andrea Piñeros López & Andrés Mauricio Clavijo Abril, 2014. "Subjective poverty, multidimensional poverty and food security in Colombia," REVISTA IB 012989, DEPARTAMENTO ADMINISTRATIVO NACIONAL DE ESTADISTICA -DANE.
    6. Burhan, Nik Ahmad Sufian & Mohamad, Mohd Rosli & Kurniawan, Yohan & Sidek, Abdul Halim, 2014. "National Intelligence, Basic Human Needs, and Their Effect on Economic Growth," MPRA Paper 77267, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Kang-Rae Ma, 2016. "Intergenerational Transmission of Wealth and Life Satisfaction," Applied Research in Quality of Life, Springer;International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies, vol. 11(4), pages 1287-1308, December.
    8. Andos Juhász, 2012. "A Satisfaction-Driven Poverty Indicator: A Bustle around the Poverty Line," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 461, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    9. Martin Binder & Felix Ward, 2011. "The Structure of Happiness: A Vector Autoregressive Approach," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2011-08, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D0 - Microeconomics - - General
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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