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.