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01/10/2010

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oliver

Even were there a reliable standard means by which to assess happiness that has been applied over time and across cultures, which I doubt, as a human being I find it easy to imagine reasons why the GDP would not correlate with it. We aspire according to how much we have in relation to others, not according to how much the pool of everybody together has achieved. With a possible exception for North Korea, we're not actually in this together--not in spirit. The distribution of wealth must matter as much as the average. It's not the same Pareto everywhere, is it?

Chuck Toombs

Please consider the feminist movement as a contributor to the decline in womens happiness

Peter

Are there not cultural differences which would change how people report their happiness? Do people respond truthfully to the question "Are you happy?".

How about looking at suicide rates?

MIke A.

I am not so sure I fully trust this sort of survey. One change I have noticed over the longer term is that today people (esp. women) are encouraged more to express their discontent if they feel. Whereas once many women might behave stocially they keep their unhappiness to themselves today this seems far less the case.

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Ryan W.

Becker's immigration and health examples run the risk of conflating the distinction he draws in his commments in the Stevenson and Wolfers paper between happiness and preferability with the distinction between *current* happiness (or preferability) and *future* happiness (or preferability). This seems to leaves his position vulnerable to the claim that once the future
happiness at stake in utility is accounted for, it may yet be acceptable to treat 'happiness' synonomously with total utility. I suspect powers and abilities (to break habits that bring about unhappiness, for example) do more to underwrite the distinction. Unhappily enough, whatever other differences there may be, a
maximally preferable state of affairs is surely preferable to a maximally happy state of affairs. This is so even if hypothetical 'regret studies' were to provide good evidence that a preferable future comes about as a consequence of acting contrary to our current preferences. Those are the key points he seems to be getting at anyhow.

Gray, Germany

"I admit I do not know why average degree of happiness has not risen in recent decades in the US as incomes rose."
For heaven's sake, why the cluelessness? It's a widely reported fact that the income inequality has risen in the US in the last decades! So, looking at the average income is useless, you at least hav to use the median income, if not looking at the distribution in more detail. Most people aren't really that better off nowadays, and as a percentage of the top 1% they even fell behind. Unequal societies make people unhappy. That's the simple explanation.

Ray Gardner

It is refreshing to hear someone of such eminence to say "I don't know." Hat's off.

And it should always be noted that "happiness" itself is a subjective topic, and no matter how rigorous the study, the core subject is still subjective by definition.

Having said that we do know reliably enough that we become acclimated fairly quickly to the various ingredients of happiness. So in such an affluent society as America the average home has quite a bit of material comfort, and there comes a point of saturation.

From there happiness or perhaps contentment will hinge more and more on things spiritual or philosophical - depending on the individual's personal beliefs. Two working parents with the kids under the care of unrelated adults from day care through high school graduation does not afford the home the same depth of personal interaction as was typically experienced in the past.

So it seems highly plausible that two cars, two kids, a nice house in the burbs and a pricey vacation every year comes at a cultural price not fully appreciated in the late 60s and early 70s.

Caz

Mentions in this article were made to status, but it didn't seem to get as much attention as utility and preference. I understand this, but I think it is looking at things through an overly scientific lens. Utility and preference can be valued through econometrics much more easily than the obvious subjective key issue, which is status.
People are hierarchical. They typically, although not always, approximate success and satisfaction with the path of their lives based on how high they make it on the food chain. Take this as a starting point, and then think about some other related things: Relative rise in status from youth until adulthood (if you start out poor and become, say upper middle class, you will be proud and pleased with yourself. starting in the upper middle class and becoming lower middle class, different story), social attitudes towards people in your social class (Asian and European societies tend to treat those in the lower classes more as valued and worthy of respect than America does), and various indicators of economic security (low in America, where layoffs are more common than in other wealthy nations) are probably very important factors in getting an overall picture of how a society thinks when it comes to hierarchy.
The article starts to say this with the earliest hypothesis: Relative income is more important than absolute income. Then it seems to get bogged down trying to utilize objective utility measurements on something an subjective as 'happiness'. Economics is a social science and doesn't happen in a laboratory. Factors that would otherwise be within the realm of sociology and psychology need to be applied if you ever want to formulate a theory that fits the data.
Quick, someone call a behavioral economist!

abercrombie and fitch

even if accurately measured by these surveys, is not the same as utility or wellbeing. Rather, happiness may be an important component of utility that often, but not always, moves in the same direction as utility.

Adem Öztaş

i think the Turkish proverb explains great the relation economy and happiness:
IF THE MONEY EXİSTS, THAN THE PEACE EXİSTS. (PARA VAR, HUZUR VAR...)

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Becker's immigration and health examples run the risk of conflating the distinction he draws in his commments in the Stevenson and Wolfers paper between happiness and preferability with the distinction between *current* happiness (or preferability) and *future* happiness (or preferability). This seems to leaves his position vulnerable to the claim that once the future
happiness at stake in utility is accounted for, it may yet be acceptable to treat 'happiness' synonomously with total utility. I suspect powers and abilities (to break habits that bring about unhappiness, for example) do more to underwrite the distinction. Unhappily enough, whatever other differences there may be, a
maximally preferable state of affairs is surely preferable to a maximally happy state of affairs. This is so even if hypothetical 'regret studies' were to provide good evidence that a preferable future comes about as a consequence of acting contrary to our current preferences. Those are the key points he seems to be getting at anyhow.

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Happiness is a state of mind. It is possible to be happy without having anything if you never have had anything.
You can change your state of mind in a second if you choose to.

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The comparison between happiness levels in different countries or in different sectors, mainly depends on the definition of the expression because it is perceived differently in different cultures . And lets not forget the phrase: Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.

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The comparison in between happiness amounts in diverse nations or in diverse sectors, generally is dependent about the definition in the expression since it is perceived in different ways in diverse cultures .
And lets not neglect the phrase: Who is rich? He who is content with his lot.

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