The Happiness Equation

Claude S. Fischer examines attempts to study and measure happiness. On the role that money plays:

The money-happiness question was initially raised by economist Richard Easterlin, who observed that growing affluence since the mid-twentieth century had not led to more reports of happiness in national surveys. (Actually, Freud raised a similar question in Civilization and Its Discontents, in 1929.) One explanation of the Easterlin Paradox, aside from adaptation and competition, is that increasing materialism ruined the pleasure Americans might have gotten from becoming wealthier. Some, including your correspondent, have argued that there is no paradox to start with, because the growing wealth since the 1970s has concentrated in the hands of the few. Average Americans haven’t gotten happier in part because average Americans haven’t really gotten wealthier.