Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 993–1011 | Cite as

Income and Wellbeing in a Society on the Verge to Market Integration: The Case of the Tsimane’ in the Bolivian Amazon

  • Dmitrij Minkin
  • Victoria Reyes-García
Research Paper


Based on findings from prior research on the relation between monetary income and subjective wellbeing, researchers have argued that income might relate to subjective wellbeing only until reaching a consumption satiation point where all basic needs are met; beyond this threshold income would not increase wellbeing. We explore this idea by analyzing a panel data set (2002–2010) collected among 982 Tsimane’, a society of largely self-sufficient foragers and farmers in the Bolivian Amazon. Subjective wellbeing is measured through four self-reported emotions: happiness, anger, fear, and sadness. As Tsimane’ mostly satisfy their basic needs through subsistence activities, if the argument above holds true, then we should not find any association between income and subjective wellbeing. Results from ordered logistic regressions suggest, however, that—even in this relatively autarkic society—income bears a positive relation with happiness and fear, although it does not seem to be associated with sadness and anger. The magnitude of the income coefficients is small compared to the variables that proxy success in subsistence activities and frequency of social interactions. In the studied society, the relation between income and happiness is likely caused by socio-psychological effects, like status gains, and not by the acquisition of material goods. In a context where wellbeing is mostly derived from success in subsistence activities and social relations, if the pursuit of income generating activities deprives individuals from devoting time to these, then income might, in fact come at a cost in terms of subjective wellbeing.


Easterlin paradox Emotional wellbeing Income Indigenous peoples Threshold hypothesis Tsimane’ Amerindians 



We are grateful to all Tsimane’ informants who, during years, have contributed their time to make this research possible. We thank the Tsimane’ Amazonian Panel Study (TAPS) and National Institute of Child Health and Development (NICHD Grant # 1R21HD050776) for making the data available. We thank A. Angelsen, J. van den Berg, and A. Pyhälä for comments to a previous version of this article. Reyes-García acknowledges financial support of the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC Grant Agreement No FP7-261971-LEK during data analysis and writing.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Environmental Sciences and TechnologyUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellateraSpain
  2. 2.Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA)BarcelonaSpain

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