Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Happiness is not a high growth rate 

Does economic growth in developed countries like the U.S. actually lead to greater levels of happiness? Broad social surveys show a roughly constant level of self-reported happiness among Americans from 1972 to 2005 (Pew Research Center 2006, 2) �a period in which average real per capita incomes roughly doubled. Despite this finding, almost half the economists surveyed conclude that economic growth in rich countries does lead to greater levels of happiness, with about a third neutral and almost one in six rejecting the idea. However, �happiness� does not seem to mean the same thing as �well being��and the vast majority of economists (88 percent) are optimistic that continued economic growth in economies like the U.S. does yield ever greater levels of well being.
From a new survey of PhD economists by David Whaples, in the latest issue of Econ Journal Watch. In light of French President Sarkozy's new plan to measure French happiness in the country's official statistics, it's worth noting that economists seem to think happiness and well-being are two different things. (For Sarkozy, maybe well-being is a poll number and happiness is his wife.)

Question for my non-economist readers: What do you see as the difference between those two terms? Your answers in comments please.