Swipe to navigate through the articles of this issue
Many believe that the lack of correlation between happiness and income, first discovered by Richard Easterlin in 1974, entails the conclusion that well-being policies should be made based on happiness measures, rather than income measures. I argue that distinguishing between how well-being is characterized and how that characterization is measured introduces ways of denying the conclusion that policies should be made based on happiness measures. It is possible to avoid the conclusion either by denying that well-being hedonism is true or by denying that happiness measures are a better way of operationalizing hedonism than income measures are. By making these possibilities explicit, we find that less hinges on whether income and happiness are correlated than is often thought.
Please log in to get access to this content
To get access to this content you need the following product:
Adler, M. D. (2013). Happiness surveys and public policy: What’s the use? Duke Law Journal, 62, 1509–1601.
Adler, M. D., Dolan, P., & Kavetos, G. (2015). Would you choose to be happy? Tradeoffs between happiness and the other dimensions of life in a large population survey. CEP Discussion Paper No 1366.
Angner, E. (2011). Are subjective measures of well-being ‘direct’? Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 89(1), 115–130. CrossRef
Benjamin, D. J., Heffetz, O., Kimball, M. S., & Rees-Jones, A. (2012). What do you think would make you happier? What do you think you would choose? American Economic Review, 102(5), 2083–2110. CrossRef
Benjamin, D. J., Heffetz, O., Kimball, M. S., & Szembrot, N. (2014). Beyond happiness and satisfaction: Toward well-being indices based on stated preference. American Economic Review, 104(9), 2698–2735. CrossRef
Bernanke, B. (2012). Economic measurement. In 32nd General conference of the international association for research in income and wealth. Retrieved from: http://www.bis.org/review/r120807a.pdf.
Blanchflower, D. G., & Oswald, A. J. (2008). Hypertension and happiness across nations. Journal of Health Economics, 27(2), 218–233. CrossRef
Bok, D. C. (2010). The politics of happiness: What government can learn from the new research on well-being. Princeton: Princeton University Press. CrossRef
Brickman, P., & Campbell, D. (1971). Hedonic relativism and planning the good society. In M. Appley (Ed.), Adaptation-level theory: A symposium (pp. 287–302). New York: Academic Press.
Brickman, P., Coates, D., & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1978). Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(8), 917–927. CrossRef
Broome, J. (1999). Ethics out of economics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossRef
Cameron, D. (2010). PM speech on wellbeing. London. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pm-speech-on-wellbeing.
Cartwright, N., & Bradburn, N. M. (2012). A theory of measurement. Working paper.
Cartwright, N., & Hardie, J. (2012). Evidence-based policy: A practical guide to doing it better. New York: Oxford University Press. CrossRef
Chang, H. (2004). Inventing temperature: Measurement and scientific progress. Oxford: Oxford University Press. CrossRef
Chang, H., & Cartwright, N. (2008). Measurement. In S. Psilos & M. Curd (Eds.), The Routledge companion to philosophy of science. New York: Routledge.
De Neve, J.-E., Landeghem, B. V., Ward, G. W., Norton, M. I., Keulenaer, F. D., & Kavetsos, G. (2015). The asymmetric experience of positive and negative economic growth: Global evidence using subjective well-being data. IZA Discussion Paper (Vol. 8914).
Deaton, A. (2008). Income, health, and well-being around the world: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 22(2), 53–72. CrossRef
Deaton, A. (2012). The financial crisis and the well-being of Americans. Oxford Economic Papers, 64(1), 1–26. CrossRef
Diener, E. (2009). Assessing well-being: The collected works of Ed Diener. New York: Springer. CrossRef
Diener, E., Kahneman, D., & Helliwell, J. (2010). International differences in well-being. Oxford: Oxford University Press. CrossRef
Diener, E., Lucas, R. E., Schimmack, U., & Helliwell, J. (2009). Well-being for public policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. CrossRef
Diener, E., Lucas, R. E., & Scollon, C. N. (2006). Beyond the hedonic treadmill: Revising the adaptation theory of well-being. The American Psychologist, 61(4), 305–314. CrossRef
Diener, E., & Myers, D. G. (1995). Who is happy? Psychological Science, 6(1), 10–19. CrossRef
Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125(2), 276–302. CrossRef
Dolan, P., & Kavetsos, G. (2016). Happy talk: Mode of administration effects on subjective well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(3), 1273–1291. CrossRef
Easterlin, R. A. (1974). Does rapid economic growth improve the human lot? Some empirical evidence. Nations and Households in Economic Growth, 89, 89–125.
Easterlin, R. A. (1995). Will rising the income of all increase the happiness of all? Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization, 27, 35–47. CrossRef
Easterlin, R. A. (2003). Explaining happiness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 100(19), 11176–11183. CrossRef
Easterlin, R. A. (2005). Feeding the illusion of growth and happiness: A reply to Hagerty and Veenhoven. Social Indicators Research, 74(3), 429–443. CrossRef
Easterlin, R. A. (2013). Happiness, growth, and public policy. Economic Inquiry, 51(1), 1–15. CrossRef
Easterlin, R. A. (2016). Paradox lost? USC Dornsife Institute for New Economic Thinking Working Paper. No. 16-02 (pp. 1–41).
Easterlin, R. A., McVey, L. A., Switek, M., Sawangfa, O., & Zweig, J. S. (2010). The happiness-income paradox revisited. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(52), 22463–8. CrossRef
Easterlin, R. A., Morgan, R., Switek, M., & Wang, F. (2012). China’s life satisfaction, 1990–2010. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(25), 9775–9780. CrossRef
Frederick, S., & Loewenstein, G. (1999). Hedonic adaptation, chapter 16. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: Foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 302–329). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2013). Happiness and economics: How the economy and institutions affect human well-being (Vol. 53). Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Griffin, J. (1986). Well-being: Its meaning, measurement and moral importance. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Hagerty, M. R., & Veenhoven, R. (2003). Wealth and happiness revisited. Social Indicators Research, 64(April), 1–27. CrossRef
Haybron, D., & Tiberius, V. (2015). Well-being policy: What standard of well-being? Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 1(04), 712–733. CrossRef
Heffetz, O., & Rabin, M. (2013). American Economic Association conclusions regarding cross-group differences in happiness depend on difficulty of reaching respondents. The American Economic Review, 103(7), 3001–3021. CrossRef
Hersch, G. (2015). Can an evidential account justify relying on preferences for well-being policy? Journal of Economic Methodology, 22(3), 280–291. CrossRef
Hirsch, F. (1977). Social limits to growth. London: Routledge.
Kahneman, D., & Deaton, A. (2010). High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(38), 16489–16493. CrossRef
Krueger, A. B., & Schkade, D. A. (2008). The reliability of subjective well-being measures. Journal of Public Economics, 92(8–9), 1833–1845. CrossRef
Layard, R. (2005). Lessons from a new science. London: Penguin Press.
Layard, R. (2006). Happiness and public policy: A challenege to the profession. The Economic Journal, 116, C24–C33. CrossRef
Lepper, H. S. (1998). Use of other-reports to validate subjective well-being measures. Social Indicators Research, 44(3), 367–379. CrossRef
Lucas, R. E., & Donnellan, M. B. (2012). Estimating the reliability of single-item life satisfaction measures: Results from four national panel studies. Social Indicators Research, 105(3), 323–331. CrossRef
Lucas, R. E., & Lawless, N. M. (2013). Does life seem better on a sunny day? Examining the association between daily weather conditions and life satisfaction judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(5), 872–884. CrossRef
Moore, A. (2013). Hedonism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2013/entries/hedonism/.
Ng, Y. K. (2008). Happiness studies: Ways to improve comparability and some public policy implications. Economic Record, 84(265), 253–266. CrossRef
Nozick, R. (1974). Anarchy, state and utopia. New York: Basic Book.
OECD. (2013). OECD guidelines on measuring subjective well-Being. Paris: OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264191655-en.
Parfit, D. (1984). Reasons and persons. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Radcliff, B. (2013). The political economy of human happiness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossRef
Sandvik, E., Diener, E., & Seidlitz, L. (1993). Subjective well-being: The convergence and stability of self-report and non-self-report measures. Journal of Personality, 61(3), 317–342. CrossRef
Schimmack, U., & Oishi, S. (2005). The influence of chronically and temporarily accessible information on life satisfaction judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89(3), 395–406. CrossRef
Schwarz, N., & Strack, F. (1999). Reports of subjective well-being: Judgemental processes and their methodological implications, chapter 4. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: Foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 61–84). New York, NY: Russell Sage Foundation.
Sen, A. (1999). Development as freedom. New York: Borzoi.
Stevenson, B., & Wolfers, J. (2008). Economic growth and subjective well-being: Reassessing the Easterlin paradox. Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, 2008, 1–87. CrossRef
Stiglitz, J. E., Sen, A., & Fitoussi, J.-P. (2009). Report by the commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress. Retreived from: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/118025/118123/Fitoussi+Commission+report.
Strack, F., Argyle, M., & Schwarz, N. (Eds.). (1991). Subjective well-being: An interdisciplinary perspective. Oxford: Pergamon Press.
Sumner, L. W. (1996). Welfare, happiness & ethics. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Veenhoven, R. (1996). Developments in satisfaction-research. Social Indicators Research, 37(1), 1–46. CrossRef
Veenhoven, R., & Hagerty, M. (2006). Rising happiness in nations 1946–2004: A reply to Easterlin. Social Indicators Research, 79(3), 421–436. CrossRef
Weijers, D. (2013). Nozick’s experience machine is dead, long live the experience machine! Philosophical Psychology, 27(4), 513–535. CrossRef
Weimann, J., Knabe, A., & Schob, R. (2015). Measuring happiness: The economics of well-being. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Woodard, C. (2012). Classifying theories of welfare. Philosophical Studies, 165(3), 787–803. CrossRef
Wren-Lewis, S. (2013). Well-being as a primary good: Towards legitimate well-being policy. Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly, 31(2), 2–9.
Zou, C., Schimmack, U., & Gere, J. (2013). The validity of well-being measures: A multiple-indicator multiple-rater model. Psychological Assessment, 25(4), 1247–1254. CrossRef
- Ignoring Easterlin: Why Easterlin’s Correlation Findings Need Not Matter to Public Policy
- Publication date
- Springer Netherlands