Economics and Happiness

Recent studies of socioeconomics and happiness, or well-being, suggest that strong democratic practices and a reasonable income contribute to happiness. According to an article in The Atlantic, the top 3 conclusions of these studies are:

“1) Generally speaking, richer countries are happier countries. But since many of these rich countries share other traits — they’re mostly democracies with strong property rights traditions, for example — some studies suggest that it’s our institutions that are making us happy, not just the wealth. More on that in a second.

2) Generally speaking, richer people are happier people. But young people and the elderly appear less influenced by having more money.

3) But money has diminishing returns — like just about everything else. Satisfaction rises with income until about $75,000 (or perhaps as high as $120,000). After that, researchers have had trouble proving that more money makes that much of a difference. Other factors — like marriage quality and health — become more relatively important than money. It might be the case that richer people use their money to move to richer areas, where they no longer feel rich. Non-economists might chalk this up to the “keeping up with the Jones'” principle.”

The graph below shows us part of the story:

Income&Happiness

The New Economic Foundation report “Well-Being Evidence for Policy: A Review” presents more details on the relationships between economics, democracy, and happiness than The Atlantic article.

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