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psc brown bag iconGrowth in Income and Subjective Well-Being Over Time

Justin Wolfers (Economics and Public Policy, University of Michigan)

02/11/2013, at noon in room 6050 ISR-Thompson.

Archived video available

Recent research has found that richer countries have higher well-being than poorer countries and that the relationship is similar in magnitude to that seen between rich and poor members within countries. However, limited data have constrained previous researchers' ability to detect whether economic growth within countries leads to greater well-being. Thus the question of whether raising the income of all will raise the well-being of all remains open. We combine newer data from many different sources with historical data to study the relationship between well-being and GDP in a panel and time series context. We find strong evidence that well-being and GDP grow together. This finding holds over both the short and long run. Over recent decades the world has gotten happier, and the magnitude of the gains is similar to what would be predicted by the growth in world GDP. Our findings suggest an important role for economic growth in increasing well-being, and cast doubt on the Easterlin paradox and theories of adaptation.

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