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Society and lifestyle

Does money bring you happiness?

17 December 2021, Tapha
Does money bring you happiness?

This paradox, stated by Easterlin for the first time in 1974, can be summed up as follows: we find that when the level of wealth of a country (mainly its GDP) increases, the level of well-being felt by individuals does not increase, not necessarily.

In the course of an article on the link between religion and feeling of satisfaction, a blogger mentioned the link between happiness and income. Based on an article by PNAS, he explained on his very good blog Amazing Sciences that if money helped increase memory of happiness (the one corresponding to the question “did you have a happy life?”), after a certain threshold (around $ 75,000 / year); it no longer influenced instant happiness (the one corresponding to the question “are you happy?”). All this is very well explained in the article “Money does not make you happy, but which one?” Note that the clichés, they seem to delight writers looking for a title.

However, if this relationship between happiness and income seems true if we take a snapshot of a given society, like the United States of the 2000s in the previous example, we must also mention the Easterlin paradox. This paradox, stated by Easterlin for the first time in 1974, can be summed up as follows: we find that when the level of wealth of a country (mainly its GDP) increases, the level of well-being felt by individuals does not increase, not necessarily.

Until now, studies that have shown this paradox have been limited to industrialized countries. But a more global study has just appeared in PNAS, focusing in particular on the countries of Asia which are experiencing or have experienced strong growth, and on the countries of the East which effected the transition from communism to capitalism, and over a period of twenty-five years. We then find a confirmation of the paradox, particularly visible in certain countries: although per capita income has more than doubled in twenty years in China or Chile, the average satisfaction of the inhabitants has slightly decreased (a decrease which is not statistically significant). The same goes for South Koreans.

An explanation of this paradox can be put forward: what matters is not ultimately the absolute amount of money that one collects, but the social status and the place in society that this money confers which is important (which would be consistent with the increase in satisfaction with the level of education). We can also draw a political consequence from this: if we want to target the well-being of the greatest number, it may be better not to focus solely on economic growth as an end in itself, but as a mean to improve education and the general health of the inhabitants, who seem more important as regards happiness.
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