Carol Graham

The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionaires

The study of happiness was of great interest to early economists and philosophers, such as Adam Smith and Jeremy Bentham. Yet it fell out of fashion as quantitative methods in economics called for more parsimonious definitions of welfare. Over a century later, in the mid-1970’s, Richard Easterlin re-visited the relationship between happiness and income.  His findings uncovered a seeming paradox:  average happiness levels did not increase over time as countries grew wealthier, nor was there a clear relationship between average per capita GDP and average happiness levels across countries, once they achieved a certain minimum level of per capita income.

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