Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 219–226 | Cite as

What wealth-happiness paradox? A short note on the American case

  • Claude S. FischerEmail author
Research Paper


Happiness scholars have tried to resolve the seeming paradox that as Americans’ wealth increased substantially over the last few decades, their happiness did not. This article questions whether the paradox is real. Demonstrations of the paradox almost always rely on GDP per capita as the measure of wealth, but that is a poor measure of a people’s well-being. It is heavily and increasingly skewed; it does not account for effort. Using instead measures of household income, male income, and average wages eliminates the paradox; these indicators of affluence have grown only slowly or declined in the same period, paralleling the changes in happiness scores. Moreover, using these indicators reveals a modest but real correlation between material well-being and national happiness.


Happiness Income Paradox Easterlin Wealth Measurement Method 



I appreciate comments on an earlier draft by Richard Easterlin, Michael Hout, Ruut Veenhoven, and Rafael Di Tella, but I, of course, remain solely responsible for errors of understanding and method.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA

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