Hi Michael and team,
Thanks for thinking about this topic—I agree that this is an important update for the community, and I think you gave it the treatment it required.
I think the puzzle of wealth/income vs SWB is an interesting one. The finding that relative wealth plays a role in SWB made sense—and leads me to hypothesize that countries with lower inequality would be happier.
I found a meta-analysis on the topic which couldn’t find a strong correlation. “The association between income inequality and SWB is weak, complex and moderated by the country economic development.”—https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29067589
It is interesting to think about the reduction in happiness due to a neighbour getting a cash transfer (the spillover effect mentioned in source 21).
Could this be due to jealousy decreasing one’s happiness? Do we need secret cash transfers?
Does the reverse also hold true—if your neighbours become poorer, does that make one happier?
Seems dangerous to generalize these findings, but this area of research would be quite applicable to the conversations on basic income.
It’s a bit of a rabbit-hole, but wondering if you’ve seen any research that speaks to this?
Indeed, many people are surprised the relationship with inequality is complicated. I don’t work on this, but my understanding it matters whether you see inequality in your society as a sign of unfairness and the system being broken (Europe) or you see it as a sign of opportunity to succeed (developing world). I’ve heard researchers say that don’t find such an affect of inequality in the US because really believe in the American Dream and thus don’t mind it. As I say, I’m no expert on this but I’d be keen for someone to look into it in more detail.
On your questions 1) the effect will be due to social comparison. Unclear if secret cash transfers would be possible—people buying new roofs for their houses—and whether this would then reduce the increase to the recipients if they can’t ‘show off’.
2) there is evidence on unemployment. In areas where unemployment is really high (20+%), individuals who are unemployed don’t show such a reduction in life satisfaction -there’s not such a social penalty if everyone else is unemployed.
I’m pretty sceptical on basic income. I would rather use that money—which would be huge—to provide mental health treatment to everyone who needed it. People are atrocious as converting money into happiness.