Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New happiness research

While I seldom mention (and am remiss in even reading) other blogs,  this item in the Freakonomics blog caught my attention. It starts with a summary discussion by NYU economics professor William Easterly who reminds us of the Easterlin paradox, which stipulates that it is our income relative to our peers rather than our absolute income that determines our happiness.
...the paradox has not held up that well, although it survives in some truncated form. The first important finding that has emerged from the new flood of data is that the original idea of “happiness” failed to discriminate adequately between two different ideas: first, emotional feelings of “happiness”, measured on a day-to-day basis; and second, a more stable, long-run satisfaction with one’s life. The first continues to be called “happiness” ... while the second is now called “life satisfaction”. Both are valid and useful concepts, but they should not be confused. The newest surveys do a good job at measuring the two separately. The Easterlin paradox turns out to hold much more with “happiness” than with “life satisfaction”....The piece of the Easterlin paradox that really falls apart with newer data is his evidence that there was little difference between rich and poor countries on average happiness. Especially with the life satisfaction concept and a much larger sample, the differences are now recognised as vast...

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