Clive Crook has an insightful post up about an Aspen session on the economics of happiness. The two panelists from this discussion, Justin Wolfers and Robert Frank, have both given a lot of thought to the age-old question of whether rich people truly have better lives than poor people do.
Wolfers, a Wharton professor with an Australian accent and surfer-style blond hair, certainly seems like someone who should be an expert on happiness. And he has solid data to back up his claims: His research indicates that money really does correlate with well-being, not just for individuals but for entire countries.
Frank, a professor at Cornell's MBA program, refuses to see things so simply. He insists that status makes a difference -- moving from a poor nation to a rich one isn't a ticket to happiness if it means suddenly having much less than the people around you.
Crook is convinced by Wolfers' rebuttal: If relative wealth mattered so much, Americans would be rushing south across the Mexican border. Instead, Mexicans are flocking to America -- even when that means becoming the poorest people in their new society. This thought experiment, coupled with the data he goes on to present, seems to prove that rich countries are simply happier.