Happiness and Economic Growth – The Evidence

  • Richard A. EasterlinEmail author
Part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life book series (IHQL)


Long term trends in happiness and income are not related; short term fluctuations in happiness and income are positively associated. Evidence for this is found in time series data for developed countries, transition countries, and less developed countries, whether analyzed separately or pooled. Skeptics, who claim that the long term time series trend relationship is positive, are mistaking the short term association for the long term one, or are misguided by a statistical artifact. Some analysts assert that in less developed countries happiness and economic growth are positively related “up to some point,” beyond which the association tends to become nil, but time series data do not support this view. The most striking contradiction is China where, despite a fourfold multiplication in two decades in real GDP per capita from a low initial level, life satisfaction has not improved.


Happiness Life satisfaction Subjective wellbeing Economic growth Income Long term Short term Easterlin paradox Developed countries Transition countries Less developed countries China 



I am grateful to Robson Morgan, Kelsey O’Connor, and Malgorzata Switek for helpful comments, and to the University of Southern California for financial support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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