Agent-based simulations of subjective well-being


There has been extensive empirical research in recent years pointing to a weak correlation between economic growth and subjective well-being (happiness), at least for developed economies (i.e. the so-called ‘Easterlin paradox'). Recent findings from the behavioural sciences and happiness literature link this paradoxical relationship to negative externalities on utility imposed by social comparison (i.e. relative income with respect to others) and adaptation (habituation to own income in the past). We believe that the type of economic growth (pro-poor, pro-middle, pro-rich, neutral), in combination with sensitivity to social comparison and past income, is a key determinant of happiness trajectories and future utility levels. With the use of agent-based simulations we examine the long-term dynamics of subjective-well-being by focusing attention on the type of growth process rather than the mere size of income growth. We generally find that pro-middle (and balanced) growth corresponds to much higher levels of long-term happiness in comparison to pro-rich growth.

Social Indicators Research