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Subjective Well-Being and Income: Is There Any Evidence of Satiation?

  • Betsey Stevenson
  • Justin Wolfers

Many scholars have argued that once "basic needs" have been met, higher income is no longer associated with higher in subjective well-being. We assess the validity of this claim in comparisons of both rich and poor countries, and also of rich and poor people within a country. Analyzing multiple datasets, multiple definitions of "basic needs" and multiple questions about well-being, we find no support for this claim. The relationship between well-being and income is roughly linear-log and does not diminish as incomes rise. If there is a satiation point, we are yet to reach it.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18992.

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Date of creation: Apr 2013
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Publication status: published as 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.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18992
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  1. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2001. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," CESifo Working Paper Series 503, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Justin Wolfers & Daniel W. Sacks & Betsey Stevenson, 2013. "The New Stylized Facts About Income and Subjective Well-Being," CAMA Working Papers 2013-03, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  3. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative income, happiness, and utility: An explanation for the Easterlin paradox and other puzzles," Post-Print halshs-00754299, HAL.
  4. Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "On the curvature of the reporting function from objective reality to subjective feelings," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 100(3), pages 369-372, September.
  5. Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2008. "Happiness Adaptation to Income beyond "Basic Needs"," NBER Working Papers 14539, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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