Money Really Does Make Us Happier

This is Gary Becker at The Becker-Posner Blog:

Stevenson and Wolfers’ “Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being,” [finds that]…high-income persons within a country are much happier on average than poor persons. They also find, however, contrary to earlier findings, that average degree of happiness is higher in countries with higher average per capita incomes, and that the relation between income and happiness among countries appears to be about as strong as the relation within countries.

On the whole, the data also indicate that reported average happiness tends to rise over time within a country as per capita incomes rise, or falls when per capita incomes fall, as in countries after the fall of communism. One apparent exception is the United States, where reported average happiness did not increase during the past three decades even though average incomes did… “Happiness,” even if accurately measured by these surveys, is not the same as utility or wellbeing… Yes, individuals generally prefer to be happier, but sometimes they are willing to trade off happiness for other behavior that gives them greater utility.

Comments (4)

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  1. Catherine says:

    Money can’t buy happiness but it can help you rent it for a while.

  2. Devon Herrick says:

    I realize this is a serious study. But one could easily summarize the primary finding as “it sucks to be poor,” which is about as newsworthy as “you’re happiest on weekends.”

  3. Tom H. says:

    Disagree Devon. Economists believe more is preferred to less, by almost everyone. But more does not necessrily lead to higher scores on independent measures of happiness. And as Becker notes, the US is a recent exception to the international pattern.

  4. Joe S. says:

    So why is the US an exception?