Info Gluttony

In Pursuit of Happiness

Posted in Uncategorized by echan on May 26, 2009

One of things that I’ve taken to contemplating as of late, is the concept of happiness.  Not the temporary, pure hedonistic pleasure form, but the questions, “Are you happy? What makes you happy?”

So, here are two interesting links on the topic.  First, the much talked about Betsey Stevenson / Justin Wolfers academic article which asks, “Why are men happier, and women less happy today, compared to the 1960s, even though women have made so many other advances that should make them happier?”

The second link discusses that in this recession, Americans are finding happiness in thrift.

Just two things worth pondering.

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  1. ToastyKen said, on May 26, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    I don’t know if this is true—no source for this—but I’ve heard about people in arranged marriages being happier than people in “love” marriages, at least in societies that are uniformly one or the other. And I can see why that might be true (if it is)… In a society with arranged marriages, people might tend to accept their lot in life and accept it, whereas in modern Western societies, we are always in search of illusory True Love that is perhaps only really experienced by a tiny fraction of the population.

    That’s much like what this bit of the conclusion in your first link says:

    “Finally, the changes brought about through the women’s movement may have decreased
    women’s happiness. The increased opportunity to succeed in many dimensions may have led to an increased likelihood of believing that one’s life is not measuring up. Similarly, women may now compare their lives to a broader group, including men, and find their lives more likely to come up short in this assessment.”

    I think as women are “liberated” they have perhaps targeted less realistic goals and compared themselves to more idealistic standards and are ending up less satisfied?

    This isn’t a direct comparison, but it reminds me of some of the stuff I’m reading in World on Fire, which talks about countries where the World Bank and IMF and whatnot have found measurable increase in standard of living for the poor following market reforms, but where the poor actually feel poorer because those market reforms have disproportionately increased the wealth of the rich even more. My point is that people don’t think in absolutes; they think in relative terms, especially when it comes to happiness. Women may be better off, but now they compare themselves to their best-off neighbors while are even better off than before; the gap among the worst-off and best-off women may have increased.

  2. ToastyKen said, on May 26, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    This comment by “mgoodfel” on your 2nd link seems related to my point:

    ‘Previously, people had anxiety because they weren’t “keeping up with the Joneses.” Now they don’t worry about that. Just keeping your job puts you ahead of some of your friends.’

    People might actually be happier when society as a whole is worse off sometimes…

    • Dustin said, on May 27, 2009 at 2:53 am

      “It’s not until you’ve lost everything that you gain everything” …unfortunately

  3. echo said, on May 28, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    Here’s a somewhat related story:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/24/magazine/24labor-t.html?em

    Perhaps this is why people like Ikea so much.


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