Happy Happy Joy Joy

This is amazing:

Arguably the most important finding from the emerging economics of happiness has been the Easterlin Paradox.

What is this paradox? It is the juxtaposition of three observations:

1) Within a society, rich people tend to be much happier than poor people.
2) But, rich societies tend not to be happier than poor societies (or not by much).
3) As countries get richer, they do not get happier.

Easterlin offered an appealing resolution to his paradox, arguing that only relative income matters to happiness. Other explanations suggest a “hedonic treadmill,” in which we must keep consuming more just to stay at the same level of happiness.

Either way, the policy implications of the Paradox are huge, as they suggest that economic growth may not raise well-being by much.

Given the stakes in this debate, Betsey Stevenson and I thought it worth reassessing the evidence.

We have re-analyzed all of the relevant post-war data, and also analyzed the particularly interesting new data from the Gallup World Poll.

Last Thursday we presented our research at the latest Brookings Panel on Economic Activity, and we have arrived at a rather surprising conclusion:

There is no Easterlin Paradox.

Read it. It’s a beautiful example of how absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence (you paying attention, atheists?)

Personally, I always suspected this was bullshit for a variety of reasons. Primarily lifespan. Even if we assume that the typical person has a fixed mean level of happiness — say 14 Abigails per year — then a longer life means more happiness over the integral from birth to death. A lifespan of 50 years means 700 Abigails of happiness while a lifespan of 80 years means 1120 Abigails.

Sociologists. I don’t think they think about these things very hard.

3 Responses to “Happy Happy Joy Joy”

  1. rpl says:

    “It’s a beautiful example of how absence of evidence does not equal evidence of absence (you paying attention, atheists?)”

    Yeah, I’m paying attention. I’m paying attention to how I’m the only one who *doesn’t* think he has a hotline to creator of the universe. Really, if you were looking for an example of the “absence of evidence fallacy,” you could hardly have picked a worse one.

  2. Mike says:

    There’s a huge difference between thinking you have a hotline to God and having genuine open questions about the nature of the Universe.

    I do think this is a classic example of the absence of evidence fallacy. As it turned out, we didn’t have the data to constrain this problem. Yet, huge books were written about it. Policy was promoted based on this. Massive volumes of ink and electrons were spilled trying to puzzle it out.

  3. rpl says:

    When I said “you could hardly have picked a worse example” I was referring to your pointless and irrelevant swipe at atheists. While there may indeed be some theists who limit their speculations to “open questions about the nature of the Universe,” the overwhelming majority of theists claim that God has communicated to them detailed knowledge of His preferences on human behavior. Observing that theists cannot possibly know the things that most of them claim to know is hardly an “absence of evidence” fallacy.