Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research

pp 1754-1757

Easterlin Paradox


Hedonic treadmill


The Easterlin paradox is an empirical relationship observed between measures of overall subjective well-being (such as life satisfaction or happiness) and income first noted by Richard Easterlin (1974). In Easterlin’s original article, he observed that, although higher incomes are associated with higher levels of happiness within a country, average levels of happiness for a country do not appear to increase over time in line with increases in average income. In other words, the rich are happier than the poor, but there is no evidence that countries increase in average happiness as they get richer.


In the original formulation of the paradox, Easterlin’s analysis was largely limited to one country (the USA) with only limited data available on other countries. Since then, better information has indicated a strong empirical relationship across countries, with wealthy countries having a higher average level of happine ...

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