In This Review

Happiness and Hardship: Opportunity and Insecurity in New Market Economies
Happiness and Hardship: Opportunity and Insecurity in New Market Economies
By Carol Graham and Stefano Pettinato
Brookings Institution Press, 2002, 174 pp

This book addresses the interaction between people's sense of well-being and economics, drawing on surveys in Latin America and Russia and comparing them with previous work on Europe and the United States. Not surprisingly, greater satisfaction is associated with higher income within countries, although not across countries. But the relationship is not so strong as one might suspect. Happiness is a complex phenomenon, influenced by marital status, gender, hope for the future, and a host of other factors. The most troubling finding is the high number of "frustrated achievers" -- people whose incomes have risen recently but who are less satisfied, sometimes because they fear losing their recent gains, sometimes because their gains fall short of their new expectations. They are much more likely to be dissatisfied than are the poorest members of society. This last point raises serious doubts about the alleged link between poverty and terrorism that has become fashionable since September 11. An excellent review of a complex subject, the book still seems to raise more questions than it can answer. For example, why do people in the regions surveyed here seem to be much less happy than those in countries that are considerably poorer, such as China, India, and Nigeria?