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Does Development Make You Happy? Subjective Wellbeing And Economic Growth In Developing Countries

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The evidence for any relationship between GDP/capita growth and growth in subjective wellbeing (SWB) in wealthier countries is disputed, at best. However, there are a number of reasons commonly articulated for thinking the relationship should be stronger in less developed countries (LDCs). This paper looks at both reasons for expecting the relationship to be stronger in developing countries, and those for a weak link that might still apply in LDCs. Finally, it turns to a limited data set to see what that might tell us. The results suggest that, at least in middle-income countries, there is little strong evidence in favor of a connection between economic growth and SWB.

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Correspondence to Charles Kenny.

Additional information

Thanks to commentators including R. Cummins, R. Veenhoven and J. Bernheim and A. Kenny as well as participants at a World Bank seminar and an anonymous reviewer for their comments on earlier drafts. The paper reflects the opinions of the author, not necessarily those of the World Bank or its executive directors.

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Kenny, C. Does Development Make You Happy? Subjective Wellbeing And Economic Growth In Developing Countries. Soc Indic Res 73, 199–219 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-004-0986-4

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  • economic growth
  • subjective wellbeing
  • utility