Objective and Subjective Indices of Well-Being: Resolving the Easterlin Happiness–Income Paradox

Part of the Happiness Studies Book Series book series (HAPS)


Easterlin (The Public Interest 30:3–10, 1973) found that at any given point in time both among and within nations, measures of subjective well-being such as happiness or life satisfaction vary directly with levels of income, but over relatively long periods of time, such as 10 years or more, happiness does not increase when a country’s income increases. This paradox has motivated much research and commentary over the past four-plus decades. This chapter commences with a review of the paradox and the prior research literature and commentaries. It then describes the conceptual foundations and empirical properties of the US Child and Youth Well-Being Index (CWI). To assess the paradox within the context of trends in the CWI , two empirical comparisons are described. The first compares trends in a time series of overall life satisfaction responses for a continuous time series of annual national samples of US high school seniors with trends in median annual family income for families with children; the second compares trends in the life satisfaction measure with trends in the CWI . It is shown that the latter trends are much more highly correlated. These empirical findings are the first to corroborate the Easterlin et al.’s (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 107:22,463–22,468, 2010, p. 22,467) conjecture that a focus on “… urgent personal concerns relating to such things as health and family life” incorporated into a more comprehensive well-being could produce a stronger long-term association and thus resolve the paradox.


Income–happiness paradox Child and Youth Well-Being Index (CWI) Monitoring The Future (MTF) Short-term Long-term 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Duke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.North Carolina Central UniversityDurhamUSA

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