Happiness around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionaires

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For centuries the pursuit of happiness was the preserve of either the philosopher or the voluptuary and took second place to the basic need to survive on the one hand, and the pressure to conform to social conventions and morality on the other. More recently there is a burgeoning interest in the study of happiness, in the social sciences and in the media. Can we really answer the question what makes people happy? Is it really grounded in credible methods and data? Is there consistency in the determinants of happiness across countries and cultures? Are happiness levels innate to individuals or can policy and the environment make a difference? How is happiness affected by poverty? By economic progress? Is happiness a viable objective for policy? This book is an attempt to answer these questions, based on research on the determinants of happiness in countries around the world, ranging from Peru and Russia to the U.S. and Afghanistan.

The book reviews the theory and concepts of happiness, explaining how these concepts underpin a line of research which is both an attempt to understand the determinants of happiness and a tool for understanding the effects of a host of phenomena on human well being. The research finds surprising consistency in the determinants of happiness across levels of development. Yet there is still much debate over the relationship between happiness and income. The book explores the effects of many mediating factors in that relationship, ranging from macroeconomic trends and democracy to inequality and crime. It also reviews what we know about happiness and health and how that relationship varies according to income levels and health status. It concludes by discussing the potential--and the potential pitfalls--of using happiness surveys to contribute to better public policy.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Offers a welcome, thought-provoking, and engaging snapshot of this emerging field."--Science

"A comprehensive synthesis of research on determinants of happiness.... It is time that sociologists join economists in pursuit of answers to the question, 'what makes us happy?'"--Contemporary Sociology

"In the past decade there has emerged a substantial literature on the economics of happiness. What makes people happy--earnings, health, the economic environment, the political system, neighbors, family? And what effect does happiness have on earnings, health, and the political system? A prodigious contributor to that literature is Dr. Carol Graham, who has now assembled a masterful review of the subject."--Thomas Schelling, Nobel Laureate in Economics 2005, Distinguished University Professor, Emeritus, University of Maryland

"Most of us could not imagine what it would be like to live in Afghanistan. But Afghans are happier, at least by a little bit, than the average for the world as a whole. They, like people everywhere, are tremendously adaptable, and manage to smile even through the worst of it. Money may make some difference, but it is not everything. Carol Graham, in this well-written volume, describes what makes people happy, and what makes them sad, and shows what the new economics of happiness means for economic and social policy."--George Akerlof, Nobel Laureate in Economics, Koshland Professor of Economics, University of California at Berkeley

"This is a wide-ranging and thoughtful survey of what makes people happy, including fascinating original research and important and provocative conclusions."--Professor Lord Richard Layard, Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199549054
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/8/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Carol Graham is Senior Fellow and Charles Robinson Chair at the Brookings Institution and College Park Professor at the University of Maryland. She served as Vice President and Director of Governance Studies at Brookings from 2002-2004 and as a Special Advisor to the Deputy Managing Director of the IMF. She was a Special Adviser to the Executive Vice President of the Inter-American Development Bank while on a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship, and has consulted at a number of international financial institutions. Her research has received support from the Hewlett, Tinker, and MacArthur Foundations, as well as the Office of the Chief Economist of the World Bank. She is the author of numerous books and articles on poverty, inequality, and social welfare policy. Graham has an A.B. from Princeton University, an M.A. from The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a Ph.D. from Oxford University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction - Why Study Happiness?
1. The Economics of Happiness
2. The Happiness and Income Debate: Substance, Methodology, and the Easterlin Paradox
3. The Determinants of Happiness around the World
4. Does Happiness Matter?
5. Happiness and Health across Countries and Cultures
6. Economic Growth, Crises, Inequality, and More
7. Adapting to Good and Bad Fortune: How Friends, Freedom, Crime, and Corruption affect Happiness
8. Happiness around the World: Lessons - and Questions - for Policy

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  • Posted September 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    An objective analysis of a subjective sentiment

    Money can't buy happiness, or so your parents used to say. But if money doesn't make you joyful, what does? In her astute, rigorously researched book, public policy scholar Carol Graham evaluates the components of happiness across countries, socioeconomic groups and cultures to tease out what "well-being" means, at least statistically speaking. Using extensive surveys in Latin America, Central Asia and Afghanistan, and existing data on happiness in the developed world, Graham posits that, despite varying levels of wealth, people and nations share fundamentally similar characteristics when it comes to being content. She examines how happiness measures can guide policy makers and notes the pitfalls involved. Be prepared, though, to brush up on your statistics and get reacquainted with z-scores and Gini coefficients. The book relies heavily on statistical analysis and calculations, but Graham manages to surface from the data occasionally to provide conclusions in lay language. getAbstract finds her work of value to economists, psychologists, policy makers and all those who just want to get happy.

    To learn more about this book, check out the following link: http://www.getabstract.com/summary/13771/happiness-around-the-world.html

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