Tuesday, December 14, 2010

USC Finds: Money Doesn't Buy Happiness

Raising a country from poverty to affluence should make the nation's population happier, right?

Wrong, according to a new study of 54 countries worldwide.

Money doesn't buy happiness over the long term, the study found. The results apply to developed and developing countries worldwide, said study researcher Richard Easterlin, a professor of economics at the University of Southern California.

"Happiness doesn't increase with the rate of economic growth even in less-developed countries or transitional countries," Easterlin told LiveScience. "We already know that to be true of developed countries, but now it's been extended to countries of lower levels of income."

Easterlin and his colleagues reported the results this week (Dec. 13) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Almost 40 years ago, Easterlin discovered a strange economic pattern in the United States: If you look at snapshot data, richer people are happier than poorer people, and wealthier countries have more satisfied populations than less well-off nations. But when you look at data collected over time, more income doesn't bring happiness.

"If you look across countries and compare happiness and GDP [gross domestic product] per capita, you find that the higher the country's income, the more likely it is to be happier," Easterlin said. "So the expectation based on point-in-time data is if income goes up, then happiness will go up. The paradox is, when you look at change over time, that doesn't happen