South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences, Vol 16, No 1 (2013)

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On the economics of happiness: the influence of income and non-income factors on happiness

Darma Mahadea

Abstract


The quest for individual happiness and a better life for all is an important economic objective in countries as different as South Africa and France or Zimbabwe and Bhutan. Economists have focused attention on the effects of consumption, income and economic growth or development on well-being and whether economic growth can be the sole basis for delivering prosperity (Dutt & Radcliff , 2009; Jackson, 2010).  The search for happiness is an important individual and national economic goal.  In the Benthamite utilitarian tradition, happiness is the sum of all pleasures and pains. People often obtain or perceive their happiness from what they have in comparison with others.  At the macroeconomic level, more happiness may come from a sustained growth in GDP that enables households to enjoy an improved quality of life, with rising income, consumption and employment opportunities.  At the microeconomic or individual level, more income may also enable people to live happier and fuller lives relative to those who are poor.  But this accounts for only a small contribution to happiness. Life circumstances, such as marital status, health, having children and the nature of the working environment statistically make a greater contribution to happiness than income.  

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EISSN 2222-3436 (Online)