AIAS Lunch Seminar 10 februari - Maarten Berg - AIAS

Income inequality and happiness in nations


Abstract

Lately, there is a growing interest in ‘happiness’. Individuals are seeking greater fulfillment with their lives, while governments aim to find new ways to measure societal progress. As a result of this growing interest, scientific happiness research has grown exponentially. Many psychologists, sociologists and economists define happiness as the ‘subjective, more or less stable, appreciation of life as a whole’ and measure it by simply asking people how they feel. Some critics object to this ‘self report method’ and favour objective measures of ‘quality of life’. Some pros and cons of both approaches are discussed.

Happiness research is closely associated with Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian philosophy (1789). Bentham argued that policies should be aimed at the “greatest happiness for the greatest number”. In the 18th century, however, happiness was not yet actually measured. Therefore, Bentham’s utilitarianism was mainly theoretical. Nowadays, we can study what the conditions of a happy society really are. We might call such ‘evidence based’ applications of utilitarianism ‘New Utilitarianism’.

This paper deals with comparative happiness research in nations, and specifically with the subject of income inequality. While many happiness researchers believe that great income inequality undermines national happiness, the current study concludes (based on a greater number of nations) that this is not the case. Maybe even more surprising is the finding that countries with greater income inequality are not more unequal in terms of happiness.

The presenter

Maarten Berg
AIAS-UvA
Plantage Muidergracht 12
1018TV
Amsterdam

Dag: Donderdag 13 januari
Tijd: 12.15 – 13.15 uur.
Locatie: AIAS, 3e verdieping gebouw M, Plantage Muidergracht 12
Inschrijven: Stuur ons een e-mail vóór dinsdag 10 februari 12.00.
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