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The paradox of Happiness: towards an alternative explanation

Drakopoulos, Stavros A. (2005): The paradox of Happiness: towards an alternative explanation. Forthcoming in: Journal of Happiness Studies (2008)

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Abstract

ABSTRACT There is a common empirical finding in many countries that substantial increases in real per capita income do not correspond to equivalent increases of individual happiness. These findings have puzzled many economists that some have called the “paradox of happiness”. There have been a number of explanations regarding this paradox. This paper attempts to tackle the paradox of happiness by employing the idea of hierarchical choice. The hierarchical approach implies that there are some basic human needs which must be satisfied before non-basic needs come into the picture. The paper argues that the hierarchical structure of needs implies that the satisfaction of basic needs provides substantial increases to individual happiness compared to the subsequent satisfaction of secondary needs. This might also be an alternative explanation of empirical findings showing a positive relationship between income and happiness up to certain level of income.

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