I remember reading about a study that had measured GDP per capita (or a similar parameter) and average (self-reported?) happiness in a lot of countries. It was hypothesized that there's a limit where GDP per capita can't make you any happier, but it was found that the relation is logarithmic, as opposed to asymptotic. Unfortunately, I can't find any such study.

I've heard both arguments (asymptotic/logarithmic relation) in arguments in political discussion.

Is there a limit where GDP per capita (or a similar parameter) can not make a country happier?

  • There have been several books that make related claims (and the slightly more sophisticated claim that inequality at a high GDP is worse than equality at a lower GDP). The Spirit Level is one, Affluenza is another.
    – matt_black
    Commented Jan 9, 2012 at 23:52
  • 2
    See here for a log-scale version of this chart. There don't appear to be many plateaus to me. economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2010/11/daily_chart_1
    – John Lyon
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 4:28
  • @jozzas: That's the graph I had seen before. Thank you very much!
    – Klas
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 9:09
  • This doesn't answer the question, but here's a relevant TED talk on how income inequality harms societies: ted.com/talks/richard_wilkinson.html. It has a lot of interesting statistics to back up the claim.
    – Asaf
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 14:17
  • 1
    It's also true that GDP isn't necessarily a good index even of a country's material wealth. For example a good way someone to personally increase GDP is to get divorced, get cancer and wreck their car; all of those require expensive work from professionals, causing GDP to rise, but don't actually benefit anyone. Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 16:11


Browse other questions tagged .