Money and Happiness

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Apr 26, 2011    •    609 Views

It is possible, after all, that money can make us happy.

A recent Brookings paper from 3 University of Pennsylvania researchers concluded that people experience greater “subjective well-being” or life satisfaction when they are more affluent. Comparing rich and poor individuals in countries, they found that the rich were happier. Looking from one nation to another, they concluded that people in nations with a higher per capita GDP were more satisfied than those in lower per capita GDP countries. And finally, with economic growth their third focus, they observed that people became more satisfied with their lives as the GDP increased.

You might enjoy this CNBC interview of the researchers who concluded that money does make us feel better.

How do you measure happiness? You could look at the World Values Survey a recent Gallup World Poll, or Eurobarometer information to see data that researchers have used. For example, they actually found that in richer countries, people smile more. (But they did not experience more love.)

The Economic Lesson

 Not everyone agrees that money brings happiness.

For economist Richard Easterlin, measuring the connection between money and happiness takes us to diminishing marginal utility. Easterlin says that as wealth accumulates, it bestows increasingly less extra satisfaction. Believing that that pleasure from wealth is relative, he also expressed the Easterlin Paradox. As long as you have more than your neighbor, you feel good.  Consequently, rich or poor, people just need to have more than someone else to feel good. 




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