Income's Association with Judgments of Life Versus Feelings

March 2010
With Ed Diener, William Tov, and Raksha Arora; International Differences in Well-Being, ed. Ed. Diener, Daniel Kahneman, and John Helliwell; Oxford University Press

Evidence is presented that measures of subjective well-being vary along a dimension anchored at the two ends by evaluative judgments of life and experienced affect. A debate in recent decades has been focused on whether rising income increases the experience of well-being. This chapter found that Judgment is more strongly associated with income, and with long-term changes of national income. Measures of feelings showed lower correlations with income in cross-sectional analyses, and lower associations with long-term rising income. Furthermore, income showed very similar regression lines with the judgment of life at the two times of the surveys, suggesting that a common standard was used. Measures of concepts such as “Happiness” and “Life Satisfaction” appear to be saturated with varying mixtures of judgment and affect, and this is reflected in the degree to which they correlate with income. This chapter's findings are relevant to Easterlin’s hypotheses about income and well-being. Income and income change were associated with judgments of life and national increases in them, whereas the associations of income and feelings were less robust.