Hasta la victoria siempre

Monday, February 16, 2009

Studiul fericirii si redistribuirea averilor

Thomas D. Griffith, absolvent magna cum laude al Universitatii Brown si Scolii de Drept Harvard, este specialist in studiul si implementarea impozitarii si taxarii, predand cursurile Contracts, Corporate Taxation, Criminal Law, Topics in Criminology and Federal Income Taxation la University of Southern California.

In studiul sau "Progressive Taxation and Happiness" (The State of Federal Income Tax Symposium: Rates, Progressivity, and Budget Processes), publicat in Boston College Law Review 1363 (2004), Griffith arata cum concluziile studierii raportului dintre bani si fericire justifica practica redistribuirii averilor de la bogati la saraci, prin intermediul impozitarii progresive. Odata depasit un modest prag material, veniturile nu mai au o influenta pozitiva relevanta asupra fericirii personale, in schimb veniturile insuficiente pentru depasirea pragului saraciei inseamna suferinta. Astfel, pentru a spori fericirea colectiva a societatii, redistribuirea veniturilor este o solutie imediata si la indemana.

Dupa cum isi prezinta Griffith studiul:
„This Article explores the optimal level of income redistribution by examining the potential welfare gains from redistributive tax and spending policies. Drawing on recent research on human happiness, this Article argues that while wealthy nations are generally happier than their poorer counterparts, neither national nor individual economic growth appear to have an appreciable impact on the subjective well-being of the citizens of relatively wealthy nations. Significant causes of this finding include the problem of rivalry—that increases in the income of some depress the happiness of others—and the fact that individuals overestimate the degree to which additional consumption will improve their happiness. Studies show the level of inequality in a society also may affect levels of happiness. Ultimately, happiness research is consistent with the strongest justification for adopting a progressive tax structure—income has declining marginal utility thus redistribution can increase total welfare in a society.”

Autorul incepe articolul propriu-zis prin a sublinia validitatea studiilor si concluziilor lor asupra fericirii personale.

„Despite potential cognitive biases, it seems that a meaningful relationship exists between self-reported utility and the respondent’s underlying mental state. Notwithstanding the influence of temporary factors such as current mood, reported well-being remains fairly stable across situations. Reported levels of pleasant and unpleasant moods during work, for example, show a strong correlation with reported levels of pleasant and unpleasant moods during recreation. Further, reported life satisfaction is fairly stable throughout an individual’s life span. Self-reported well-being strongly correlates with the reports of family and friends and with the amount of smiling during an interview. Self-reported welfare also correlates with the ability of respondents to recall positive events in their lives.
In addition, more “objective” measures of a successful life correspond with self-reported happiness. Individuals who report themselves to be happy, for example, are less likely to be absent from work, less likely to die prematurely, and less likely to have headaches, digestive disorders, and similar ailments. In sum, while not without problems, research based on subjective measures of well-being may provide useful information about the causes and correlates of human happiness.”

Despre fericirea natiunilor
„The relationship between income and well-being is not uniform throughout the income distribution. For poor nations, additional income appears to have a significant impact on reported well-being. Once citizens of a nation have reached a level of reasonable financial security, however, additional income has little effect. (...) The finding that additional income has a greater impact in poor nations stands in line with the discoveries of other researchers. This result does not come as a surprise. Most citizens of poor nations will use extra income to satisfy basic needs; in wealthy countries, those needs already are met for most citizens. (...) In sum, while not without problems, cross-national comparisons do not deviate from the traditional notion of declining marginal utility of income. Additional income increases the utility of the citizens of all nations but has the greatest effect where those citizens are poor.”

Asadar, cresterea veniturilor e esentiala pentru paturile sarace ale societatii si pentru natiunile sarace, nicidecum pentru cei care au atins deja un nivel de securitate financiara rezonabila.

Spulberarea iluziei ca banii aduc fericirea
„Almost universally, individuals view economic growth as an important goal for any nation. This view presumably finds ground in a belief that a high rate of economic growth will improve significantly the well-being of that nation’s citizens. Studies of subjective well-being over time, however, raise serious questions about this conclusion. Even high rates of economic growth may have only a modest impact on long-term happiness in developed nations. Figure 4, for example, shows per capita income and stated happiness in the United States from 1972 to 1998, a period of high economic growth for the country. Income is adjusted for inflation and shown in year 2001 dollars. (...)
During this twenty-six year period, real per capita income in the United States grew from $13,821 to $21,821, an increase of 58%. At the same time, the percentage of respondents who professed to be “very happy” actually fell. During the first five years of the period, from 1972 to 1976, the portion of the sample reporting to be very happy averaged 34.6%. During the last five years, from 1994 to 1998, an average of only 32% professed to be very happy. Other nations show similar results. Rapid economic growth in France and Japan since the end of World War II produced little increase in subjective well-being in those countries.”

Si un fragment cat se poate de sugestiv:
"People value money highly. When asked what change would most improve the quality of their lives, individuals most frequently respond with the answer “more money.” The actual increase in reported happiness from additional income, however, appears to be quite modest. A study of Illinois lottery winners, for example, found that their happiness did not differ significantly from controls. Moreover, lottery winners report significantly less pleasure than non-lottery controls from ordinary experiences such as talking to a friend, eating breakfast, and even from hearing a funny joke. Similarly, most people think that a 25% increase in their pay will increase greatly their satisfaction with their lives, but individuals whose incomes are currently at that level do not report significantly greater life satisfaction."

Pentru cine conteaza cresterea veniturilor:
„A recent study by Michael Hagerty and Ruut Veenhoven examines a somewhat different data set including developing nations with much lower per capita incomes than previously studied. Their analysis includes new data from the 1990s, but excludes some earlier surveys. The authors divided the nations into three groups according to gross domestic product (“GDP”) per capita. (For simplicity, I refer to this as income.) Increased income positively correlates with increased happiness for each group, but poorer nations demonstrate the effect in a more significant way.
In the richest nations—the United States, Japan, Norway, Demark, and Luxembourg—an additional $1000 per capita income increased life satisfaction on average by 0.024 units on a ten-point scale.
In the middle nations—the United Kingdom, Ireland, Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy—an additional $1000 income increased life satisfaction by 0.045 units. In the poorest nations—Spain, Portugal, Greece, South Africa, Brazil, South Korea, Mexico, India, and the Philippines—an additional $1000 income improved life satisfaction by a robust 1.67 units. An extra dollar of income in a poor nation thus produced thirty-seven times as much utility as an extra dollar in a middle nation and seventy times as much utility as an extra dollar in a rich nation.”

Descoperirea este aproape uimitoare: in tarile cele mai putin bogate, o crestere a veniturilor este de 37 de ori mai relevanta in privinta fericirii decat in tarile medii si de 70 de ori fata de tarile bogate.

Bogatia si frimiturile de fericire:
„Research on the impact of increased income on the happiness of individuals within a single nation parallels findings from cross-national surveys. At any given time, individuals at the top of the income distribution express greater happiness than those with lower incomes, but additional income affects the happiness of the poor more than the happiness of the rich. Furthermore, even a sizeable increase in the income of all citizens through long-term economic growth exhibits little impact on subjective well-being. (...)
In both the 1972 to 1974 and 1994 to 1996 surveys, households in the top deciles expressed greater happiness than those in the middle deciles, who in turn were happier than those in the bottom deciles. The relationship was not linear. Moving from the bottom decile to the fifth decile in 1996 required an additional $12,177 and produced a utility gain of 0.25 points. In this low-income range, an additional $1000 of income produced an average increase in happiness of 0.0205 points. In the same year, moving from the sixth decile to the top decile required an additional $44,170 and produced a utility gain of 0.07 points. In this high-income range, an additional $1000 produced an average increase in happiness of only 0.0016 points. Thus, an additional dollar of income over the low-income range had more than twelve times the impact on happiness of an extra dollar in the high-income range. Results from the 1972 to 1974 data showed a similar decline in the marginal utility of income.”

Un dolar in plus are pentru paturile sarace un impact pozitiv de peste 12 ori mai mare decat pentru cei mai avuti.
„Even a proportional increase in income does not affect high and low income levels equally. In the 1994 to 1996 data, doubling an individual’s income increased happiness by 0.05 points on average in the lower five deciles. In the top five deciles, doubling income increased happiness by only 0.03 points. Other studies finding that income has a stronger relationship to happiness at the lower portion of the income distribution support these results.”

Existenta inegalitatilor sociale, minimizeaza fericirea:
Faptul ca natura umana este mult mai potrivita cu egalitarismul social si evita, chiar cu pretul neplacerilor proprii, oranduirile inegale, e dovedit de exemplele numeroase date de Griffith.

„The happiness paradox suggests that individuals have greater concern with their relative places in the pecking order than with their absolute income. A recent survey demonstrated this phenomenon by asking Harvard graduate students in which of two worlds they would prefer to live. In the first world, they would earn $50,000 per year and others would get half that income. In the second world, they would earn $100,000 per year and others would get two and a half times that income. Prices were the same in both worlds. Approximately half of the students stated that they would prefer to live in the former world, where they would be poorer, but enjoy a higher relative income.
Individuals exhibited much less concern with their relative positions with respect to vacations. Again, the survey asked students to choose between two worlds. In the first world, they would get two weeks holiday and others would get only one. In the second world, they would get four weeks holiday, but others would get eight weeks. Only one out of five students selected the first option, accepting a reduced absolute number of vacation days in order to have relatively more days off than others. In short, students displayed rivalry with respect to income but not leisure."

Pe scurt, respondentii unui studiu Harvard au declarat ca prefera sa castige 50.000$ daca restul castiga de doua ori mai putin, in loc sa castige 100.000$ iar restul de doua ori si jumatate mai mult. Deosebit de important este ca aceasta rivalitate nu s-a transpus si in ceea ce priveste timpul liber, ceea ce arata ca o societate in care domina egalitarismul financiar si accentul este pus pe timpul liber al oamenilor va fi mai putin afectata de invidie si competitie decat una care accentueaza importanta bunurilor materiale si tolereaza inegalitatile.
Rezultatele de mai sus au fost confirmate de un alt studiu, prezentat de Griffith:

"Fredrik Carlsson, Olof Johansson-Stenman, and Peter Martinsson reached consistent results in a survey of Swedish citizens involving more plausible alternative societies. They asked respondents to choose the best society for a relative, living two generations in the future. The survey defined “best” as the society in which the future relative would be most content.
In Society A, the relative earned 27,000 Swedish kroner (SEK) per month (about $3500) in after-tax income, which is 10% less than the average income of 30,000 SEK per month. The survey offered three different versions of Society B. In each version, the relative’s absolute income varied but always remained lower than in Society A. In Society B, however, the relative earned 10% more than the average income.

Seventy-five percent of respondents chose a 6.5% reduction in absolute income in exchange for a higher relative income. Fifty-three percent were willing to accept an 18.5% reduction in absolute income to maintain a higher relative position. Moreover, fully 47% of the respondents chose to accept a greater than 45% reduction in absolute income in order to maintain an above-average relative income. This result is remarkable given the relatively small deviations of the proffered income choices from the mean. Nearly half of the respondents believed that their relative would be better off giving up almost half of his or her real income in order to have an income 10% above the average rather than 10% below average.

Respondents showed substantially less competition regarding leisure. Instead of focusing directly on leisure, the survey asked respondents about working hours, presuming greater familiarity with that concept."

Justificarea taxarii progresive si a redistribuirii veniturilor
Faptul ca banii in plus nu sporesc fericirea celor deja avuti insa au un efect relevant in cazul celor saraci si foarte saraci, justifica redistribuirea averilor, de la bogati la saraci, pentru sporirea fericirii generale in societate. Exact acesta este si mesajul lui Griffith, care pledeaza nu doar pe taxarea excesiva a produselor de lux, ci pe taxarea proportionala cu marimea averii.

"Consider, for example, the tax on luxury automobiles enacted during the William J. Clinton administration. Few doubt that part of the value of owning a luxury automobile for many individuals may be found in the prestige associated with its purchase. Similarly, the purchase of an expensive car by one individual can reduce the welfare of others. Smith’s recently purchased Mazda Miata sports car is less impressive when his neighbor Jones drives home in a new Porsche 911 Carrera. Nonetheless, it is unclear whether the luxury car tax led to the purchase of appreciably fewer positional goods. Instead, consumers may have switched to other positional goods which were not subject to the luxury tax. Expensive SUV’s, for example, which were classified as trucks and thus were exempt from the luxury tax on cars, saw a dramatic increase in sales during the Clinton years.

More to the point, many goods have a substantial positional value. Suppose, for example, instead of purchasing a Porsche 911 sports car, Jones purchases a less expensive automobile and uses the money saved to purchase a Viking range, a Subzero refrigerator, a high-definition plasma television, several Armani suits, and a week-long vacation in the Bahamas. Or instead Jones might use the savings to add an extra bedroom to his home. These alternative expenditures might engender greater jealousy from Jones’s neighbors than the purchase of an expensive sports car. Perhaps Jones’s neighbor is an environmentalist who has just purchased a gas-electric hybrid Toyota Prius and who feels only contempt for anyone buying an expensive gas-guzzling sports car. In light of the large number of consumption items that have a significant positional component, it makes sense to adopt a general progressive income (or consumption) tax rather than a series of taxes on luxury items."

CONCLUZIA studiului se impune de la sine: "The strongest traditional justification for progressive taxation is that income has declining marginal utility, and therefore, redistribution from the rich to the poor can increase total welfare in a society. Happiness research is consistent with this justification and provides important additional insights about the reasons money declines in value. Moreover, happiness research suggests that additional income spent on positional goods may have little impact on overall welfare in a society because the positional gains by one individual will be offset by the positional losses of another. In addition, adaptation and changes in aspiration levels may diminish the gains from additional consumption. The challenge for policymakers lies in the design of tax and spending policies which provide lasting improvements in the overall happiness of society."

Noi si noi argumente, asadar, sa consideram nu doar ca goana dupa inavutire este o incercare absurda, nerealista si desarta de a atinge fericirea, atat la nivel individual cat si colectiv, dar si ca o societatea care impiedica inegalitatile de venit si se preocupa prioritar de asigurarea unui nivel de viata decent din punct de vedere materialsi centrat pe placerile non-pecuniare va fi mai fericita si mai putin roasa de invidie si competitie.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Televizorul, unealta capitalista a cresterii aspiratiilor materiale

In studiul lor "Income Aspirations, Television and Happiness: Evidence from the World Values Survey", cercetatorii Luigino Bruni si Luca Stanca de la Economics Department, University of Milan Bicocca, explica modul in care cresterea aspiratiilor materiale este invers proportionala cu cresterea satisfactiei de viata si cum televizorul, in tarile capitaliste, contribuie la trendul ascendent al dorintelor materiale. Articolul a aparut in revista academica Kyklos - International Review for Social Sciences: 59 (2006), 2 (05), paginile 209-225.

Aspiratiile materiale crescute erodeaza satisfactia de viata si contribuie la paradoxul Easterlin:
"In the last three decades a number of studies have reported evidence on the income-happiness paradox. In cross-sectional studies, higher income is generally associated with higher subjective well-being across individuals, although the effect is relatively small, and GDP per capita and subjective well-being are positively and strongly correlated across countries (see e.g. Diener et al., 1999). However, over time happiness does not grow with income: countries with fast-growing GDP per capita have not shown corresponding increases in well-being (e.g. Easterlin, 1974, Veenhoven, 1994, Oswald, 1997).
One of the main explanations of the income-happiness paradox is based on the role of rising aspirations (e.g. Easterlin, 1995, 2001, Frey and Stutzer,
2002a,b). In this view, what matters for happiness is not income per se, but the gap between income and material aspirations. To the extent that aspirations rise together with income, subjective satisfaction may remain unchanged as income rises. Material aspirations of individuals, in turn, are influenced by two main processes (see Stutzer, 2004). On the one hand, the adaptation to past income and consumption levels: people tend to adapt quickly to higher income and consumption levels. As a consequence, additional material goods provide extra satisfaction only temporarily. On the other hand, the comparison with other people’s income (Easterlin, 1995): people tend to compare themselves with relevant reference groups in assessing their income and consumption levels. As a consequence, they end to be less satisfied with a given level of income if their neighbours earn more."

Aspiratiile si adaptarea la marirea venitului:
"Kahneman (2000) makes a distinction between two types of treadmill effects, namely, the hedonic treadmill and the satisfaction treadmill. Whilst the hedonic treadmill depends on adaptation, the satisfaction treadmill depends on aspiration. A similar distinction between the two treadmill effects is made by Frey and Stutzer: “This process, or mechanism, that reduces the hedonic effects of a constant or repeated stimulus, is called adaptation. According to aspiration level theory, individual well-being is determined by the gap between aspiration and achievement” (2005, p. 125).
The satisfaction treadmill works in such a way that one’s subjective happiness (self-evaluation) remains constant even when one’s objective happiness improves. In this case, someone who buys a new car gets a boost in his objective well-being, or happiness, but the fact that he has had a rise in income has also made his aspirations rise about the ideal car to own, so that his subjective satisfaction level remains the same. This is true even though he may be objectively more comfortable in his new car. As a consequence, as their incomes increase, people are induced to seek continuous and ever more intense pleasures in order to maintain the same level of satisfaction.
Layard calls this effect the “effect of habit”: “if people adopt a higher living standard, they lose the option to return to they former living standard and experience the same utility as before from a given consumption” (2005, p. 155). This mechanism is also very close to the concept of reference dependent preferences (Tversky and Kahneman, 1991), one of the most important ideas in modern behavioral economics."

Ce reiese de aici este ca sporirea venitului nu se traduce intr-o stare de satisfactie permanent crescuta, pentru simplu motiv ca odata cu cresterea veniturilor, cresc si apiratiile noastre materiale. Deci, per total, nu suntem mai multumiti de, sa zicem, marirea de salariu sau achizitionarea unui automobil scump, atata timp cat vor exista produse si mai luxoase si costisitoare, fata de care astfel ne-am apropiat si mai mult si care par mai atragatoare decat ceea ce avem deja.

Inegalitatile sociale si cresterea aspiratiilor materiale:
"Explanations based on the relative consumption hypothesis can be considered a development of the aspiration theory. The positional or relative consumption hypothesis is not a new one. Over a century ago, Veblen (1899) defined consumption as a social issue, given that the most significant acts of consumption are normally carried out in public, under the others’ view.
Duesenberry (1949) was the first economist to introduce explicitly relative consumption theory. Duesenberry claimed that a person derives utility, or satisfaction, from his own level of consumption in relation or in comparison
to the level of other people’s consumption (1949, p. 32). Therefore, the utility of a person’s level of consumption is relative and not absolute. In this view, people are constantly comparing their material achievements with those of some reference group. It is the “keeping up with the Jones” idea, where utility depends on consumption relative to that of the others, rather than just on its absolute level.
More recently, Scitovsky (1976, cap. 6) dealt with the relationship between consumption and status, and Hirsch (1977) coined the term “positional good”.
Today many economists are working on relative consumption or income theories with this interdisciplinary approach. The basic element of the theory is the concept of externality, in particular positional externality, that is connected to the idea of conspicuous consumption: conspicuous commodities are, in a sense, commons, with the typical phenomena of rivalry and over-exploitation. Following Frank’s and Oswald’s research, Layard recognizes that “a rise in the average income in the state where you live reduces your happiness by one third as much as a rise in your own income increases it”. And, referring to the labour market, “a rise in wages of comparable workers reduces your job satisfaction as a rise in your own wage increases it” (Layard , 2005b, p. 150).
Summing up, people make social comparisons in evaluating their material
achievements. Relative consumption theory can therefore be described as a
further treadmill effect. Something else is running along with our income or
consumption: the income of others."

Pe scurt, inegalitatile sociale contribuie la randul lor la cresterea aspiratiilor materiale, multi avand tendinta de a imita comportamentul referitor la imbogatire al "vecinilor", ceea ce inseamna ca o cresterea a averii lor ii determina sa-si doreasca la randul lor o crestere de venituri si, implicit, sa nu mai fie (la fel de) multumiti cu ceea ce au deja.

Pana aici am trecut sumar in revista anumite mecanisme care contribuie la cresterea pretentiilor materiale si, implicit, la scaderea multumirii fata de ceea ce posedam in prezent. mai departe vom vedea cum televizorul duce la cresterea acestor aspiratii, cu acelasi rezultat.

"In particular, television plays a key role in consumer socialization, by providing consumers with information used in constructing their mental representation of reality. Television therefore contributes significantly to define what our goals are, or should be. We argue that, by acting as a powerful agent of consumer socialization, television produces higher material aspirations and, as a consequence, lower levels of well being for a given level of material achievements. More precisely, television viewing produces its effects on material aspirations in two main ways."

1. Publicitatea, uzina de dorinte artificiale
"First, when watching television people are the target of images of more and better products than what they have. Advertisers are aware that new demand can be created if people are not satisfied for too long with what they have. As a consequence, people are constantly offered new and improved products that promise a better and happier life, with television playing a key role in this process. This increases people’s desire for material possessions, as they are induced to compare the goods they consume with new goods and new varieties of existing goods. Television viewing therefore makes them less satisfied with what they consume, and, consequently, decreases the satisfaction derived from any given level of income or consumption of material goods. In this perspective, TV can be seen as a powerful factor in speeding up the satisfaction treadmill, through faster growth of aspirations."

Cat se poate de evident: publicitatea inventeaza noi inchipuite nevoi si dorinte, pentru ca producatorii sa vanda produse care in mod normal nu s-ar cere.

2. Negativul exemplu al oamenilor bogati
"Second, by watching TV people are overwhelmed by images of people
richer and wealthier than they are. This contributes to shifting up the
benchmark for people’s positional concerns: income and consumption levels are compared not only to those of their actual social reference group,
but also to those of their virtual reference group, defined and constructed
by television programs. Television viewing makes people less satisfied with their income and wealth levels. In this perspective, TV can be seen as a powerful factor in speeding up the positional treadmill, through comparison
with higher benchmark groups.
Television viewing affects individuals’ material aspirations because it is the main source by which people acquire social information and are driven to make social comparisons."

La fel de simplu si la obiect: fiind bombardati cu imagini despre oamenii bogati si stilul lor de viata, consumatorii de TV devin intr-un ritm accelerat nemultumiti de conditia lor materiala din prezent, aspirand la un trai asemanator cu al personajelor de pe ecran.

In continuare, autorii studiului explica in termeni tehnici metodologia prin care au verificat influenta urmaririi programelor TV asupra satisfactiei personale, folosind rezultatele World Values Survey din 2000.
Trecand direct la concluziile la care cercetatorii au ajuns, citim:

"Prior research has shown that television viewing has an important effect on how individuals perceive reality and, in particular, on their material aspirations (see e.g. O’Guinn and Shrum, 1997, Shrum et al. 1998). A recent
study by Shrum et al. (2005), based on a sample of 321 Americans, finds
evidence that television cultivates materialism. A positive effect of television viewing on materialism was also found by Sirgy et al. (1998). There is also extensive evidence that higher material aspirations have a negative impact on life satisfaction (e.g. Stutzer, 2004, 2005).
In this paper we examined the effects of television viewing on income aspirations and, in turn, on the relationship between income and individual
happiness. We argued that television viewing reduces the effect of income on life satisfaction by producing higher material aspirations, enhancing both adaptation and positional effects. Using individual data for about 56,000 individuals from the World Value Surveys we presented evidence indicating that the effect of income on both life and financial satisfaction is significantly smaller for heavy television viewers, relative to occasional TV viewers. This finding was found to be robust to a number of specification checks, while different alternative interpretations were examined and rejected.
The analysis presented in this paper complements the results in Bruni and Stanca (2005), who find that television viewing has a negative indirect effect on individual life satisfaction, through a significant crowding out effect on relational goods. Our results also qualify, and extend to a large and
representative international data set, the findings in the recent studies by
Frey et al. (2005) and Layard (2005).
Overall, the results presented in this study can also be interpreted as providing an additional explanation for the income-happiness paradox: as standards of living improve, the pervasive and increasing role of television viewing in people’s life contributes significantly to raising material aspirations, thus lowering the effect of higher income on individual happiness."

Concluzia lucrarii nu mai necesita nici comentata, nici completata. In incheiere ma rezum la a cita o observatie generala a celor doi cercetatori italieni referitoare la slaba relatie dintre fericire si bani, plasata in contextul unui larg acord intre cercetatorii care se ocupa de subiect.

"Over time and across OECD countries, rises in aggregate income are not associated with rises in aggregate happiness. At the aggregate level, there has been no increase in reported happiness over the last 50 years in the US and Japan, nor in Europe since 1973 when the records began.” (Layard 2005b, p. 148). A recent paper by Hagerty and Veenhoven (2003) challenges this thesis, claiming that growing GDP is associated with greater happiness. Easterlin (2004) replied to this paper defending his classical thesis.
Already in 1991 Veenhoven criticized Easterlin’s thesis about international comparisons. He plotted the same data as Cantril, though using the same scale on both axes, and showed that the relationship follows a convex pattern of diminishing returns. A similar criticism has been put forward by Oswald (1997, p. 1817) and many others, but the idea of a very low correlation between happiness and income growth is still the most accepted among economists working on happiness."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Inegalitatile socio-economice, un cancer social

La intrarea "Economic Inequality" din enciclopedia Wikipedia, putem citi:
"Research has shown a link between income inequality and social cohesion. In more equal societies, people are much more likely to trust each other, measures of social capital suggest greater community involvement, and homicide rates are consistently lower. [...]

In a 2002 paper, Eric Uslaner and Mitchell Brown showed that there is a high correlation between the amount of trust in society and the amount of income equality. They did this by comparing results from the question "would others take advantage of you if they got the chance?" in U.S General Social Survey and others with statistics on income inequality. Similarly, a 2008 article by Andersen and Fetner finds a strong relationship between economic inequality within and across countries and tolerance for 35 democracies."

Vom vedea ca aceste descoperiri sunt confirmate in continuare de Eric Uslaner, profesor in cadrul Department of Government and Politics,
University of Maryland–College Park. In articolul sau Corruption, Inequality, and Trust, aparut in lucrarea "The Handbook on Social Capital, edited by Gert Tinggaard Svendsen and Gunnar Lind", Uslaner demonstreaza legaturile stranse intre inegalitatile de venit in societate si sporirea coruptiei, in paralel cu scaderea increderii intre membrii comunitatii. Inegalitatile devin astfel un adevarat cancer social, care erodeaza valorile esentiale ale unei functionari corecte si armonioase a vietii in societate.

Ce este coruptia si cum apare ea:
"Corruption flouts rules of fairness and gives some people advantages that others don’t have. Corruption transfers resources from the mass public to the elites–and generally from the poor to the rich (Tanzi, 1998). It acts as an extra tax on citizens, leaving less money for public expenditures (Mauro, 1997, 7). Corrupt governments have less money to spend on their own
projects, pushing down the salaries of public employees. In turn, these lower-level staffers will be more likely to extort funds from the public purse. Government employees in corrupt societies will thus spend more time lining their own pockets than serving the public. Corruption thus leads to lower levels of economic growth and to ineffective government (Mauro, 1997, 5). The roots of corruption lie in the unequal distribution of resources in a society.
Economic inequality provides a fertile breeding ground for corruption–and, in turn, it leads to further inequalities. The connection between inequality and the quality of government is not necessarily so simple: As the former Communist nations of Central and Eastern Europe show, you can have plenty of corruption without economic inequality. The path from inequality to corruption may be indirect–through generalized trust–but the connection is key to understanding why some societies are more corrupt than others. When we trust people who may be different from ourselves, we
will be more predisposed to treat them honestly–and profiting from corruption will seem unseemly. When we distrust strangers, especially if we believe that they are trying to cheat us, our moral compunctions against corrupt behavior become less compelling. Corruption and inequality
wreak havoc with our moral sense. Della Porta and Vannucci (1999, 146) argue that pervasive corruption makes people less willing to condemn it as immoral. As coruption becomes widespread, it becomes deeply entrenched in a society (Mauro, 2004, 16). People begin to believe that dishonesty is the only way to get things done (Gambetta, 2002, 55)."

Pe scurt, coruptia, cauzata de inegalitati, nu face decat sa sporeasca decalajul dintre cei bogati si cei mai putin avuti, sa submineze increderea in institutiile statului si, odata cu ea, in ceilalti oameni. Se ajunge pana la a considera ca nedreptatea este singura cale de a prospera: "The argument from inequality to low trust to corruption–and back again both to low trust and greater inequality (what I call the “inequality trap”)–stands in contrast to the more common approach to explaining corruption as stemming from deficient institutions. The roots of corruption are largely not institutional, but rather stem from economic inequality and a mistrusting culture, which itself stems from an unequal distribution of wealth. There is one institution that does shape corruption: the fairness of the legal system."

Coruptia din socialism, inofensiva:
"The link between inequality and corruption seems compelling. Corruption is exploitive. Not all corruption is linked to inequality. “Grand” corruption refers to malfeasance of considerable magnitude by people who exploit their positions to get rich (or become richer)–political or business leaders. So grand corruption is all about extending the advantages of those already well endowed.
“Petty corruption,” small scale payoffs to doctors, police officers, and even university professors, very common in the formerly Communist nations of Central and Eastern Europe (and many poor countries) is different in kind, if not in spirit. Petty corruption, or “honest graft” as New York City political boss George Washington Plunkitt called it (Riordan, 1948), does not enrich those who practice it. It may depend upon an inequitable distribution of wealth–there should be no need to make “gift” payments in a properly functioning market economy.
It does not exacerbate the gap between the rich and the poor--and may actually narrow it by providing some small benefits to the middle class bureaucrats, teachers, and doctors who benefit from it."

Asadar, mica coruptie, cea prezenta in fostele tari comuniste, este in buna masura inofensiva si poate servi chiar la accentuarea egalizarii sociale. Ea se diferentiaza net de coruptia din capitalism, menita sa mareasca prapastia dintre paturile sociale.

Inegalitatile promoveaza coruptia:
"Inequality promotes corruption in many ways. Glaeser, Scheinkman, and Schleifer (2002, 2-3) argue:
...inequality is detrimental to the security of property rights, and therefore to growth, because it enables the rich to subvert the political, regulatory, and legal institutions of society for their own benefit. If one person is sufficiently richer than another, and courts are corruptible, then the legal system will favor the rich, not the just. Likewise, if political and regulatory institutions can be moved by wealth or influence, they will favor the established, not the efficient. This in turn leads the initially well situated to pursue socially harmful acts, recognizing that the legal, political, and regulatory systems will not hold them accountable.
Inequality can encourage institutional subversion in two distinct ways. First, the havenots can redistribute from the haves through violence, the political process, or other means.
Such Robin Hood redistribution jeopardizes property rights, and deters investment by the rich."

Alte confirmari:
"Similarly, You and Kaghram (2005) argue: “The rich, as interest groups, firms, or individuals may use bribery or connections to influence law-implementing processes (bureaucratic corruption) and to buy favorable interpretations of the law (judicial corruption).”
Inequality breeds corruption by: (1) leading ordinary citizens to see the system as stacked against them (Uslaner, 2002, 181-183); (2) creating a sense of dependency of ordinary citizens and a sense of pessimism for the future, which in turn undermines the moral dictates of treating your neighbors honestly; and (3) distorting the key institutions of fairness in society, the courts, which ordinary citizens see as their protectors against evil-doers, especially those with more influence than they have (see also Glaeser, Scheinkman, and Schleifer, 2003; and You and Khagram, 2005)."

Bogatii isi folosesc puterea si influenta superioare pentru a vicia deciziile institutiilor statului, cetatenii asjungand, pe buna dreptate, sa isi piarda increderea in acestea,pe care le percep ca amenintatoare.

Inegalitatile economice deturneaza rosturile normale ale clasei politice, viciind inclusiv democratia:
"Economic inequality creates political leaders who make patronage a virtue rather than a vice, since it provided jobs for ordinary citizens. These leaders help their constituents, but more critically they help themselves. Inequality breeds corruption–and to a dependency of the poor on the political leaders. Inequality leads to clientelism–leaders establish themselves as monopoly
providers of benefits for average citizens. These leaders are not accountable to their constituents as democratic theory would have us believe.
There may well be the trappings of democracy, with regularly scheduled elections, so that the link between democratic and honest government may not be as strong as we might initially expect.
The political boss is well entrenched in his position. His party reigns supreme in the area. Potential opponents don’t have the resources to mount a real challenge–and, even if they tried, the boss can count on the support of the legions whose jobs he controls through his patronage machine.
Unequal wealth leads people to feel less constrained about cheating others (Mauro, 1998) and about evading taxes (Oswiak, 2003, 73; Uslaner, 2003). Where corruption is widespread, people realize that they are not the masters of their own fate–and they lose faith that their future will be bright."

Beneficiile coeziunii sociale:
"Generalized trust is predicated on the notion of a common bond between classes and races and on egalitarian values (Seligman, 1997, 36-37, 41).5 Faith in others leads to empathy for those who do not fare well, and ultimately to a redistribution of resources from the well-off the poor. If
we believe that we have a shared fate with others, and especially people who are different from ourselves, then gross inequalities in wealth and status will seem to violate norms of fairness.
Generalized trust rests upon the psychological foundations of optimism and control and the economic foundation of an equitable distribution of resources. Optimism and control lead people to believe that the world is a good place, it is going to get better, and that you can make it better.
Economic equality promotes both optimism and the belief that we all have a shared fate, across races, ethnic groups, and classes."

Egalitarismul, direct proportional cu increderea sociala:
"Where is generalized trust high and where is it low? Across a wide set of nations, across the American states, and over time in the United States–the only country with a long enough time series on the standard survey question on trust6–the strongest predictor of trust is the level of
economic inequality. As economic inequality increases, trust declines (Uslaner, 2002, chs. 6, 8; Uslaner and Brown, 2005). Optimism for the future makes less sense when there is more economic inequality. People at the bottom of the income distribution will be less sanguine that they too share in society’s bounty. The distribution of resources plays a key role in establishing the belief that people share a common destiny–and have similar fundamental values. When resources are distributed more equally, people are more likely to perceive a common stake withothers. If there is a strong skew in wealth, people at each end may feel that they have little in
common with others. In highly unequal societies, people will stick with their own kind. Perceptions of injustice will reinforce negative stereotypes of other groups, making trust and accommodation more difficult (Boix and Posner, 1998, 693)."

Ierarhizarea, invers proportionala cu increderea in oameni:
"Seligman (1997, 36-37, 41) argues that trust can not take root in a hierarchal culture. Such societies have rigid social orders marked by strong class divisions that persist across generations.
Feudal systems and societies based on castes dictate what people can and can not do based upon the circumstances of their birth. Social relations are based on expectations of what people must do, not on their talents or personalities. Trust is not the lubricant of cooperation in such traditional societies. The assumption that others share your beliefs is counterintuitive, since strict class divisions make it unlikely that others actually have the same values as people in other classes."

Egalitarismul merita instaurat pentru a bloca competitiile inter-sociale gen "keeping up with the Joneses" si, in general, tentatia imbogatirii si consumerismului. Vedem insa ca renuntarea la o structura sociala ce permite ierarhizari si inegalitati are multe alte avantaje, precum scaderea coruptiei si increderea generalizata intre oameni, care dupa cum am vazut de curand, e o conditie esentiala a fericirii.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Legaturile comunitare, esentiale fericirii

În luna ianuarie 2009, cercetatorii de la universitatea australiana Deakin au publicat cea mai recenta aparitie a Australian Unity Wellbeing Index. Cercetarea, care evidentiaza starea de bunastare si fericire a natiunii australiene, a fost prezentata si comentata in media autohtona, rezultatele ei indicand ca trainicia relatiilor inter-comunitare si nu averea materiala a comunitatii determina sporirea fericirii. Doua astfel de articole sunt prezentate mai jos.

The survey shows money, or household income, has no relationship to happiness stakes. The wellbeing index for the first time has combined six years of data from 35,000 people across the nation to show "clearly" that South Australians are the most satisfied with their lives. (...) Professor Bob Cummins, from Deakin University, the author of the index, says for people to feel happiest they need to live in regional areas with a relatively small population, be married and enjoy strong community connections.
"Roughly less than 40,000 people as a community have a greater sense of belonging and safety, which contributes significantly to their wellbeing," he said. "On an overall state/territory comparative basis, SA is clearly the best and NSW is the worst in relation to wellbeing," he said.
People living on KI and in the South-East have higher marriage rates (55 per cent), low unemployment (4.2 per cent), higher than average home ownership and few apartments. A high 90 per cent are Australian citizens.”

In cel de-al doilea articol, se specifica:
„Frustrated city dwellers longing for a quieter life are right to look with envy at all those sea and tree-changers.
A new study shows living in country towns, where everyone knows everyone, is a happier existence than the hustle and bustle of city life. Australians who live in regional areas with fewer than 40,000 people have a higher sense of personal wellbeing than those living in cities, the study shows. It's also found that residents in the Campbelltown area of Sydney and Greater Dandenong in Melbourne, which have high numbers of recent migrants, have the lowest sense of wellbeing.
The Australian Unity Wellbeing Index measures people's overall feeling of wellbeing through satisfaction with factors including health, relationships, safety, standard of living and community connection.
Deakin University Professor Bob Cummins, the author of the index, says wellbeing is related to a sense of community."Anybody who's lived in a small country town knows ... that everybody says hello to everybody else," he told AAP. "You become very quickly connected to those communities."But he says areas with a high number of new Australians have lower levels of social connection."This acts then to reduce the wellbeing of people in those areas," he says."What this signals to government is that more resources are clearly required, not in terms of financial support ... but in terms of social interventions, about bringing people of different cultures together."He says policy makers need to direct more resources to these areas.”

Din sumarul studiului realizat chiar de autorii sai, remarcam:
„Professor Bob Cummins from Deakin University, the author of the Index, saysthat this outcome is driven by feelingconnected to the community.“Community connection has a large impacton how people feel about their lives. Thisis very difficult to achieve in larger townsand cities but appears to be highly evidentin smaller towns and country regions”,Professor Cummins said. Australian Unity Managing Director,Mr Rohan Mead, said that this highlights the importance of getting involved withyour community, whether you live in thecountry or the city.”

Si, ceea ce ne intereseaza in mod deosebit, „ A further finding of the report shows that the SSDs with high wellbeing are likely to have more married and older inhabitants. These areas also tend to have lower household income which demonstrates the relative wealth of the area is not the major criterion for high wellbeing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Alois Stutzer despre adaptarea hedonica la venit si comparatiile inter-sociale


Profesorul Alois Stutzer demonstreaza in articolul "The Role of Income Aspirations in Individual Happiness", publicat in Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 54(1), 2004, pp. 89-109, nu doar realitatea fenomenului de adaptare hedonica la venit, dar si faptul ca inegalitatile socio-economice actioneaza impotriva satisfactiei fata de venitul individual.

Introducerea studiului:
"Does individual well-being depend on the absolute level of income and consumption or is it relative to one’s aspirations? In a direct empirical test, it is found that higher income aspirations reduce people’s utility, ceteris paribus. Individual data on reported satisfaction with life are used as a proxy measure for utility, and income evaluation measures are applied as
proxies for people’s aspiration levels. Consistent with processes of adaptation and social comparison, income aspirations increase with people’s income as well as with the average income in the community they live in."

Altfel spus, cresterea veniturilor ne multumeste pentru un timp limitat, dupa care ne adaptam la aceasta noua situatie si cautam sa castigam si mai mult. Dorindu-ne sa posedam si mai mult, indiferent de cat avem deja, nu suntem niciodata multumiti cu situatia noastra materiala, de aici si imposibilitatea atingerii fericirii prin intermediul banilor.

Cum se formeaza aspiratiile materiale individuale
"Two processes are theoretically put forward as forming individual aspirations. First, there is individuals’ adaptation to repeated stimuli, as provided by people’s consumption habits. Whereas additional material goods and services initially provide extra pleasure, their effects wear off over time. Thus people get used to their consumption and income level. Second, there are social comparisons with relevant others. It is not the absolute level of income that matters most, but rather one’s position relative to other individuals. Socially comparative or even competitive processes in consumption complement processes of hedonic adaptation. Together, it is suggested, they make people strive for ever higher aspirations."

Asadar, nu conteaza in primul rand cata avere avem, ci mai ales cat au ceilalti. Comparatiile sociale ne determina in buna masura sa cautam imbogatirea, pentru depasirea "vecinilor".

Explicatii detaliate ale cresterii aspiratiilor materiale
Comparatiile inter-sociale
"Human beings are unable and unwilling to make absolute judgements. Rather, they are constantly drawing comparisons from their environment, from the past or from their expectations of the future. Thus, we notice and react to deviations from aspiration levels.
There are two main processes, which form individuals’ aspirations, and make for the relativity in people’s utility evaluation.
First, people make social comparisons, which drive their positional concerns for income. It is not the absolute level of income that matters most, but rather one’s position relative to other individuals. This idea of relative income is one part of the more general aspiration level theory.
Positional concerns are not a new aspect of human nature, but they are probably more pronounced today because of more extended possibilities of social comparison. Many economists in the past have noted that individuals compare themselves to significant others with respect to income, consumption, status or utility. Marx (1849) expressed his view about the social aspect of utility most explicitly: “Our wants and pleasures have their origin in society; we therefore measure them in relation to society; we do not measure them in relation to the objects which serve for their gratification. Since they are of a social nature, they are of a relative nature.”
Veblen (1899) coined the notion of ‘conspicuous consumption’, serving to impress other persons.
The ‘relative income hypothesis’ has been formulated and econometrically tested by Duesenberry (1949), who posits an asymmetric structure of externalities. People look upward when making comparisons. Aspirations thus tend to be above the level already reached. Wealthier people
impose a negative external effect on poorer people, but not vice versa. As a result, savings rates depend on the percentile position in the income distribution, and not solely on the income level, as in a traditional savings function."

Adaptarea hedonica
Second, people adapt to their previous income or consumption level. Additional material goods and services initially provide extra pleasure, but it is usually only transitory. Higher utility from material goods wears off. Satisfaction depends on change and disappears with continued
consumption. This process, or mechanism, that reduces the hedonic effects of a constant or repeated stimulus, is called adaptation.
Processes of hedonic adaptation supplement the socially comparative, or even competitive, processes in consumption. Together, they make people strive for ever higher aspirations. It is but a short step from aspirations to individual welfare. According to aspiration level theory, individual well-being is determined by the gap between aspiration and achievement (Michalos 1991 and Inglehart 1990, ch. 7)."

Banii nu pot aduce fericirea: din nou despre Paradoxul Easterlin
"Related research has been conducted by Easterlin (1974, 1995, 2001a,b), who uses the concept of aspirations as a frame of reference to resolve – as he calls it – the happiness paradox. The happiness paradox describes two striking observations in the relation between income and happiness: While people with higher income report, on average, higher satisfaction with life,
raising everybody’s income does, on average, not increase people’s subjective well-being. It is argued that, in the latter case, individuals’ aspirations grow in lockstep with income. This interpretation of the data is supported by laboratory findings showing the importance of relative
judgements for happiness (Smith, Diener, and Wedell 1989 and Tversky and Griffin 1991). In this paper, the presumed underlying mechanism is studied explicitly."

Studiul lui Stutzer examineaza cauzele Paradoxului Easterlin, cercetand daca aspiratiile materiale constant crescute anuleaza cresterea fericirii.

Rezultatele studiului
"This paper presents, in a new, more direct and general approach, empirical evidence for the effect of income aspirations on individual well-being. It is found that higher income aspirations reduce people’s satisfaction with life. Thereby, the negative effect on well-being of an increase in the aspiration level is of a similar absolute magnitude to the positive effect on well-being of an equal increase in income. This suggests that subjective well-being depends only on the gap between income aspirations and actual income and not on the income level as such. Thus, the higher the ratio between aspired income and actual income, the less satisfied people are with their life, ceteris paribus. This supports the notion of a relative utility concept.
The aspiration level itself is substantially increasing with individuals’ previous income.
However, the effects of higher income on individual well-being at a fixed point in time are not completely counterbalanced by higher aspirations. In fact, the relative gap between income aspirations and actual income is smaller for rich people. In the present data set, this explains the positive
correlation between income and reported subjective well-being. Over and above previous income, individuals’ aspirations are also systematically affected by the average income in the community where people live. The richer one’s fellow residents are, the higher is an individual’s aspiration
level. This effect cannot be explained by a higher cost of living alone. It is shown that the aspiration levels of community members who interact within the community react much more to changes in average income than those of members who do not interact.
The reported evidence for the formation of individuals’ aspiration levels and their effects on subjective well-being offers an explanation for various empirical observations. For example, if average aspirations in society increase at the same rate as income per capita, it can be understood
why people in industrialized societies did not become happier over the last decades, despite substantial growth in their economic wealth.
This is consistent with citizens’ voting behavior. It is found that citizens support the incumbent parties when the economic conditions are good,
whereby citizens take into consideration the unemployment rate and the inflation rate much more than the rate of income growth. Another observation that can be understood better is the low correlation between income and reported subjective well-being. If people evaluate their economic well-being relative to their aspirations, rather than absolute, it is no big puzzle that a fraction of people in an objectively bad economic situation are still highly satisfied and another fraction of people living under objectively good economic conditions still report being highly dissatisfied.
What are the consequences of research on relative income? The empirical basis is still quite small to be able to draw firm implications for economic theory and economic policy. Caution is called for because the implications are potentially very high. However, one might want to think about
household theory, in which people’s desires increase with what they get. In this framework, the marginal utility of income would not be defined anymore, as the utility function changes with the income level. Moreover, it might be interesting to study in greater depth what implications income aspirations have, for instance, on redistributive taxation or on public policy in general."

Pe scurt, studiul lui Stutzer confirma atat existenta adaptarii hedonice, cat si
cea a comparatiei inetr-sociale, ambele prezente in comunitati ce progreseaza economic si care permit inegalitati de venit. Desi se pare ca bogatii sunt ceva mai fericiti decat cei mai saraci, aceasta se explica prin faptul ca in cazul lor, comparatia inter-sociala nu le creaza noi aspiratii materiale, fiind deja mai bogati decat majoritatea. In afara de acesti indivizi, aflati in varful ierarhiei materiale, nimeni altcineva nu se pare ca ar deveni mai fericit imbogatindu-se, ceea ce inseamna ca pentru majoritatea, idealul cautarii fericirii in avere este iluzoriu. Mai mult, bogatasii sunt responsabili de scaderea satisfactiei celorlalti, care incearca sa ii imite sau depaseasca.
Intr-o societate egalitarista, mai putin preocupata prioritar de cresterea economica, astfel de fenomene au mult mai scazute sanse de a avea loc. Nu intamplator autorul vorbeste in concluzia studiului de taxarea redistributiva.

Impactul cresterii economice rapide asupra satisfactiei de viata in America Latina

La 18 noiembrie 2008, Inter-American Development Bank a dat publicitatii un studiu efectuat in colaborare cu Gallup referitor la satisfactia de viata in tarile din America Latina. Rezultatele? Cresterea economica rapida nu doar ca nu a sporit fericirea, dar a avut efectul diametral opus. Totodata, tari cu o crestere modesta economica sunt mult mai fericite decat altele ce au un PIB net superior. Sa urmarim deci cateva dintre concluziile trase in urma studiului in prezentarea acestuia de pe saitul Inter-American Development Bank, intitulata sugestiv „Faster Economic Growth Hurts Life Satisfaction in Latin America and the Caribbean”.

„People in countries that have experienced fast economic growth in recent years are less satisfied with their lives than people in nations with slower growth rates, according to a new study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The study is the latest edition of the Development in the Americas series, the IDB’s flagship publication.
Satisfaction in Trinidad and Tobago, Chile, Peru and Ecuador, countries with the fastest growth in the region in recent years, is lower than in nations such as Guyana, El Salvador, Paraguay and Guatemala, whose economies showed little or no growth.
The study, an unprecedented look into people’s perceptions in the region, uses data from the Gallup World Poll and information commissioned by the Bank to complement the survey. Citizens of Latin American and the Caribbean were asked how they perceived key aspects of their lives including the quality of education, healthcare, housing and employment, providing some surprising and on occasion counter-intuitive responses.
Satisfaction rates are not necessarily highest in the wealthiest countries or in those with the best social services or the fastest growth. Countries in the region with high per capita income, such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay showed moderate levels of life satisfaction, trailing countries with lower per capita income such as Guatemala, Colombia and Jamaica.”

O explicatie a acestei stari de fapt consta in aceea ca aspiratiile si pretentiile oamenilor cresc in perioadele de progres economic, iar cand acest progres se desfasoara cu repeziciune, pretentiile cresc cu atat mai mult, depasindu-le.

„The study shows that fast economic growth will prompt people’s aspirations for a better life style to rise even faster. The rapid changes in the economy, and not just the level of income or consumption, end up affecting the level of satisfaction in the short run.
“Governments that focus their policies exclusively on growth are bound to lose support in the long run if they do not respond to the higher expectations that accompany growth in areas ranging from education and health to income distribution,” explains Eduardo Lora, IDB’s chief economist and coordinator of the study. “The difficulty lies in responding to these demands without killing growth.”

Pe pagina dedicata studiului, apare si un clasament cat se poate de sugestiv, al satisfactiei de viata si intensitatii cresterii economice. Observam de acolo ca cea mai fericita tara din America de Sus este Costa Rica, desi a beneficiat de o crestere a PIB-ului, intre 2001 si 2006, modesta, de 2,8.
Urmeaza Panama, care are o crestere economica superioara primului loc. Trinidad Tobago a inregistrat cea mai mare crestere economica in perioada studiata, de 8,8 (de aproape trei ori mai mare decat locul 1) dar ca satisfactie de viata se afla in jumatatea inferioara a clasamentului. Ecuador are o crestere de 3,9 dar e printre ultimile patru tari ca satisfactie de viata.

Cercetarea din America Latina confirma din plin spusele unor intelepti precum Epicur (Daca vrei sa imbogatesti pe cineva, nu-i spori averea, ci ia-i din dorinte) sau Schopenhauer (Averea e ca apa sarata: cu cat o bei, cu atat creste setea). Astfel, locuitorii tarilor mai putin spectaculoase economic au pretentii mai scazute, ceea ce ii face sa se adapteze mai bine si sa fie multumiti.

„People in countries with greater economic success are often less satisfied with their health, housing and labor condition and educational services provided by the government. Most of the countries with poorer economic performance, excluding Haiti, are the most satisfied.

The report also shows that 81 percent of the people in the region are satisfied with their jobs, more than workers in countries with high-income per capita such as Japan and South Korea, where 78 percent of people polled said they were satisfied with their work. Satisfaction is high even though a quarter of the population in the region doesn’t earn enough to lift itself out of poverty or the proportion of self-employed people or those with unpaid jobs has increased. (...) What matters the most for people in the region is to have a job that provides independence and is a place where they feel their opinions are heard. Social security and other labor benefits play a smaller role in job satisfaction levels.

The region showed high levels of life satisfaction in general compared with other regions of the world, even after income differentials are accounted for (see graph below). Latin America on average reported a level of life satisfaction of 5.8, more than Europe and Central Asia, but less than the 7.5 reported in North America and 7.2 for Western Europe.
Nearly 80 percent of the people in the region said they are satisfied with their housing situation, more than people in Europe and Central Asia, for example. Overall 85 percent of the people polled in the region said they are satisfied with their health, comparable to most regions, but higher than in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.”

Acelasi studiu a fost semnalat si in textul „Economic growth doesn't guarantee happiness for Latin Americans”. Cateva randuri reprezentative: „Yet an innovative study released Tuesday by the multilateral lender the Inter-American Development Bank found that better social services and higher incomes don't necessarily translate into happiness. Chile, for example, ranks third in the region in per capita gross domestic product and fourth in per capita growth from 2001 to 2006 but only 13th in life satisfaction, the bank study found.
On the other hand, Guatemala ranked 16th in per capita gross domestic product in the region yet sixth in life satisfaction. Costa Rica ranked first in life satisfaction while Haiti ranked last.”

Daca exista o concluzie evidenta ce trebuie trasa in urma unor astfel de descoperiri sociologice este ca progresul material si economic, chiar si cand este rapid, are un efect extrem de limitat asupra fericirii umane, aceasta tinand mai degraba de circumstante interne, psihologice--precum scaderea si limitarea dorintelor si pretentiilor.