Inequality ‘reduces happiness’

Social inequality reduces people’s sense of happiness in Western societies, according to a new study.

Researchers reviewed the available evidence from national surveys of self-reported happiness, and looked at the relationship between happiness and levels of inequality – drawing a distinction between the results for Western and non-Western societies.

Key points

  • In Western societies, studies suggest that income inequality tends to reduce individual well-being.
  • The evidence for non-Western countries is more mixed – and also less reliable, since there is usually no longitudinal data available.
  • Some differences can be observed between Western societies. People in the USA may be less affected by inequality than those in European countries.
  • More research is needed in order to understand the mechanism by which the negative relationship between inequality and happiness operates. But trust in social and political institutions seems to play an important role.

Source: Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell and Xavier Ramos, Inequality and Happiness: A Survey, Discussion Paper 38, GINI Project (European Commission)
Link: Paper

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