The Relevance of Happiness: Choosing Between Development Paths in Latin America

  • Mariano RojasEmail author
Part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life book series (IHQL)


This chapter argues for a happiness conception of well-being. It states that the dominant income-based conception of well-being is very limited and it neglects relevant aspects in people’s experience of being well. The subjective well-being (happiness) approach is explained and its relevance in the development debate is shown. The debate about the procurement of development is not just about instruments and strategies but, fundamentally, about what the final goals in a society are. The paper states that a developed society is one where citizens are satisfied with their lives. An illustration from the Latin American region is used to show the relevance of measuring happiness and incorporating it as final aim.


Happiness Development Progress Latin America 


  1. Argyle, M. (2002). The psychology of happiness. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Becchetti, L., & Santoro, M. (2007). The wealth-unhappiness paradox: A relational goods/Baumol disease explanation. In L. Bruni & P. L. Porta (Eds.), Handbook on the economics of happiness (pp. 239–261). Cheltenham: Elgar.Google Scholar
  3. Bok, D. (2011). The politics of happiness: What government can learn from the new research on well-being. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Clark, A., & Oswald, J. (1994). Unhappiness and unemployment. Economic Journal, 104, 648–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clark, A., & Senik, C. (2011). Will GDP growth increase happiness in developing countries? IZA Discussion Papers 5595, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA). Bonn: Germany.Google Scholar
  6. Clark, A., Frijters, P., & Shields, M. (2008). Relative income, happiness, and utility: An explanation for the Easterlin paradox and other puzzles. Journal of Economic Literature, 46(1), 95–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crooker, K., & Near, J. (1998). Happiness and satisfaction: Measures of affect and cognition? Social Indicators Research, 44, 195–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Deci, E., & Ryan, R. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Di Tella, R., Haisken-De New, J., & Macculloch, R. (2007). Happiness adaptation to income and to status in an individual panel. Working Papers 13159. NBER. Cambridge, Massachusets: United States.Google Scholar
  10. Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Diener, E., & Suh, E. (2000). Culture and subjective well-being. Cambridge, MA: The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Press.Google Scholar
  12. Dohmen, J. (2003). Philosophers on the “Art-of-Living”. Journal of Happiness Studies, 4, 351–371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Easterlin, R. (1974). Does economic growth enhance the human lot? Some empirical evidence. In P. A. David & M. Reder (Eds.), Nations and households in economic growth: Essays in honour of Moses Abramovitz (pp. 89–125). Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Easterlin, R. (1995). Will rising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all? Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization, 27(1), 35–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Easterlin, R. (2005). Building a better theory of well-being. In L. Bruni & P. L. Porta (Eds.), Economics and happiness: Framing the analysis (pp. 29–65). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eid, M., & Diener, E. (2004). Global judgments of subjective well-being: Situational variability and long-term stability. Social Indicators Research, 65, 245–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Estes, J. (1984). The social progress of nations. University of Michigan, Michigan: United StatesGoogle Scholar
  18. Ferrer-I-Carbonell, A. (2002). Subjective questions to measure welfare and well-being. Discussion Paper TI 2002-020/3. Tinbergen Institute.Google Scholar
  19. Ferrer-I-Carbonell, A., & Frijters, P. (2004). How important is methodology for the estimates of the determinants of happiness? The Economic Journal, 11, 641–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Frank, R. (2005). Does absolute income matter? In L. Bruni & P. L. Porta (Eds.), Economics & happiness: Framing the analysis (pp. 65–90). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Frey, B., & Stutzer, A. (2000). Happiness, economy and institutions. The Economic Journal, 110, 918–938.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fuentes, N., & Rojas, M. (2001). Economic theory and subjective well-being: Mexico. Social Indicators Research, 53(3), 289–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Graham, C., & Pettinato, S. (2004). Happiness & hardship; opportunity and insecurity in new market economies. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  24. Grinde, B. (2002). Darwinian happiness. Evolution as a guide for living and understanding human behavior. Princeton: Darwin Press.Google Scholar
  25. Gui, B., & Sugden, R. (2005). Economics and social interaction: Accounting for interpersonal relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Haybron, D. (2003). What do we want from a theory happiness? Metaphilosophy, 34(3), 305–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kahneman, D., & Krueger, A. (2006). Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(1), 3–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kasser, T. (2002). The high price of materialism. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  29. Leite Mota, G. (2007). Why should happiness have a role in welfare economics? Happiness versus orthodoxy and capabilities. Working paper No. 253. FEP. Universidade do Porto, Porto: PortugalGoogle Scholar
  30. Michalos, A. (1985). Multiple discrepancy theory. Social Indicators Research, 16, 347–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Oswald, J. (1997). Subjective well-being and economic performance. The Economic Journal, 197, 1815–1831.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Parens, E. (1998). Enhancing human traits: Ethical and social implications. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Postlewaite, A. (1998). The social basis of interdependent preferences. European Economic Review, 42, 779–800.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Praag, V., & Ferrer-I-Carbonell, A. (2004). Happiness quantified: A satisfaction calculus approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Praag, V., Frijters, P., & Ferrer-I-Carbonell, A. (2003). The anatomy of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 51, 29–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pugno, M. (2007). The subjective well-being paradox: A suggested solution based on relational goods. In L. Bruni & P. L. Porta (Eds.), Handbook on the economics of happiness (pp. 263–288). Cheltenham: Elgar.Google Scholar
  37. Rojas, M. (2006). Well-being and the complexity of poverty: A subjective well-being approach. In M. McGillivray & M. Clarke (Eds.), Understanding human well-being (pp. 182–206). Tokyo: United Nations University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Rojas, M. (2007). The complexity of well-being: A life-satisfaction conception and a domains-of-life approach. In I. Gough & A. McGregor (Eds.), Researching well-being in developing countries: From theory to research (pp. 259–280). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Rojas, M. (2008). Experienced poverty and income poverty in Mexico: A subjective well-being approach. World Development, 36(6), 1078–1093.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rojas, M. (2011). Income, happiness, and beyond. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 6(3), 265–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rojas, M. (2012a). Panorama Económico de América Latina. In M. Puchet, M. Rojas, R. Salazar, G. Valenti, & F. Valdés (Eds.), América latina: Problemas centrales y oportunidades promisorias. México: FLACSO-México.Google Scholar
  42. Rojas, M. (2012b). Bienestar Subjetivo en América Latina. In M. Puchet, M. Rojas, R. Salazar, G. Valenti, & F. Valdés (Eds.), América latina: Problemas centrales y oportunidades promisorias. México: FLACSO-México.Google Scholar
  43. Rojas, M., & Veenhoven, R. (2013). Contentment and affect in the estimation of happiness. Social Indicators Research, 110(2), 415–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schwarz, N., & Strack, F. (1991). Evaluating one’s life: A judgment model of subjective well-being. In F. Strack et al. (Eds.), Subjective well-being. An interdisciplinary perspective (pp. 27–48). Oxford: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  45. Sen, A. (1993). Capability and well-being. In M. C. Nussbaum & A. Sen (Eds.), The quality of life. Oxford: Oxford University Press, United Nations University.Google Scholar
  46. Stutzer, A. (2004). The role of income aspirations in individual happiness. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 54, 89–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Veenhoven, R. (1984). Conditions of happiness. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Veenhoven, R. (1987). Cultural bias in ratings of perceived life quality. Social Indicators Research, 18, 329–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Veenhoven, R. (1991). Questions on happiness: Classical topics, modern answers, blind spots. In F. Strack et al. (Eds.), Subjective well-being. An interdisciplinary perspective (pp. 7–26). Oxford: Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  50. Veenhoven, R. (2003). Arts-of-living. Journal of Happiness Studies, 4, 373–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Veenhoven, R. (2009). How do we assess how happy we are? In A. Dutt & B. Radcliff (Eds.), Happiness, economics and politics. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.FLACSO-México and UPAEPMexico CityMexico

Personalised recommendations