Thursday, March 10, 2016

Easterlin Continues to be Paradoxical (2013)

Richard A. Easterlin, “Happiness, Growth, and Public Policy.” Economic Inquiry 51(1): 1–15, January 2013 [pdf].

Sacks, Stevenson, and Wolfers (2012) choose their time periods in ways that drive their results; using the maximum time periods available restores the Easterlin effect

• Rate of improvement in subjective well-being (SWB) does not seem to depend on GDP growth, in: (1) developed countries; (2) developing countries; and (3) transition countries. 

• For developing countries, even financial satisfaction does not seem to rise with economic growth. 

• In recent decades, China has seen unparalleled economic growth – but there is no evidence that Chinese people have gotten happier; perhaps the opposite, in fact. 

• In the short run, there is a positive connection between SWB and economic growth – but there is no long-run connection. Economic growth does not buy happiness. 

• Full employment and the provision of a social safety net raise SWB. 

• Germany pioneered safety nets in the 1880s; its experience suggests that today’s developing countries, for the most part, can afford social safety nets, too.

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