China's Economic Growth Has Not Increased Happiness

Saad Akhtar/CC BY 2.0

Another interesting piece of research to juxtapose, in admittedly very much tangentially, with the worse-than-expected May US jobs figures: New research looking at economic growth and happiness in China, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that despite 10% economic growth annually for the past 20 years, happiness in China hasn't changed very little.

Lead author Richard Easterlin, quoted by Mongabay:

There are many who believe that well-being is increased by economic growth, and the faster the growth, the happier the people are. There could hardly be a better country than China to test these expectations. But there is no evidence of a marked increase in life satisfaction in China of the magnitude that might have been expected due to the enormous multiplication in per capita consumption. Indeed people are slightly less happy overall, and China has gone from being one of the most egalitarian countries in the world in terms of life satisfaction to one of the least.

The study found 71% of the wealthiest Chinese had high levels of life satisfaction, while 42% of the poorest Chinese reported they were happy (in 1990, this was 65%). Over the past twenty years, the happiness of middle income Chinese has remained the same.

All of that is likely to be cold comfort if you're out of work, for sure, but it's still a timely and solid reminder that more, more, more doesn't necessarily lead to happy, happy, happy—nor a greener, cleaner environment.

If you really want to dive headfirst into why this is the case, you really need to check out the World Happiness Report.

Tags: China | Economics

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