Happiness around the World: The Paradox of Happy Peasants and Miserable Millionaires


Nov. 15, 2011, 6pm
Brookings Mountain West


Speaker: Carol Graham, Brookings Institution, Leo Pasvolsky Senior Fellow - Global Economy and Development, Brookings Global – CERES Economic and Social Policy in Latin America Initiative

For centuries the pursuit of happiness was the preserve of philosophers. More recently there is a burgeoning interest in the study of happiness in the social sciences. Can we really answer the question what makes people happy? Is it grounded in credible methods and data? Is there consistency in the determinants of happiness across countries and cultures? Are happiness levels innate to individuals or can policy and the environment make a difference? How is happiness affected by poverty and by progress? This presentation introduces a line of research which is both an attempt to understand the determinants of happiness and a tool for understanding the effects of a host of phenomena on human wellbeing, ranging from macroeconomic and political trends to inequality, disease, and crime. The author discusses the potential of happiness surveys to contribute to better public policy, as well as the potential pitfalls.

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