Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Question About Happiness

This entry (and the more detailed explanations linked therein) by Justin Wolfers on happiness research and the Easterlin Paradox is interesting. In short, they find that, contrary to previous research, being wealthier does in fact make an individual happier, and wealthier countries are, on average, happier.

This is a study of the relationship between levels--the level of wealth and the level of happiness. I wonder, is there a relationship between the growth of wealth and the level of happiness? A long time ago I read Brad Delong's review of a book by Ben Friedman, in which Delong wrote:

...modern society is a bicycle, with economic growth being the forward momentum that keeps the wheels spinning. As long as the wheels of a bicycle are spinning rapidly, it is a very stable vehicle indeed. But, he argues, when the wheels stop—even as the result of economic stagnation, rather than a downturn or a depression—political democracy, individual liberty, and social tolerance are then greatly at risk even in countries where the absolute level of material prosperity remains high

I wonder if this would show up in happiness data. Has anyone done the simple panel data regression of happiness on growth rates of GDP, rather than per capita GDP?

Update: Thanks to Jonathan nation for a correction.