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The Easterlin Paradox

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  • Easterlin, Richard A.
  • O’Connor, Kelsey J.

Abstract

The Easterlin Paradox states that at a point in time happiness varies directly with income, both among and within nations, but over time the long-term growth rates of happiness and income are not significantly related. The principal reason for the contradiction is social comparison. At a point in time those with higher income are happier because they are comparing their income to that of others who are less fortunate, and conversely for those with lower income. Over time, however, as incomes rise throughout the population, the incomes of one's comparison group rise along with one's own income and vitiates the otherwise positive effect of own-income growth on happiness. Critics of the Paradox mistakenly present the positive relation of happiness to income in cross-section data or in short-term time fluctuations as contradicting the nil relation of long-term trends.

Suggested Citation

  • Easterlin, Richard A. & O’Connor, Kelsey J., 2020. "The Easterlin Paradox," GLO Discussion Paper Series 743, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:743
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
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    8. Sarracino, Francesco & O'Connor, Kelsey J. & Ono, Hiroshi, 2019. "Making economic growth and well-being compatible: evidence from Japan," MPRA Paper 93010, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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    Cited by:

    1. FitzRoy, Felix & Nolan, Michael A., 2021. "The Inefficiency of Employment and the Case for Workplace Democracy," IZA Discussion Papers 14065, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Easterlin Paradox; economic growth; income; happiness; life satisfaction; subjective well-being; long-term; short-term; trends; fluctuations; transition countries; less developed countries; developed countries;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • O10 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - General
    • O5 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies

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