Times are tough for many Americans, complete with job losses and financial stress at home and the conduct of two wars abroad. How does this turmoil affect the overall happiness and well-being of Americans? Carol Graham, an expert on inequality and subjective well-being, notes that while people across the globe have a surprising ability to adapt to adverse conditions, uncertainty and doubt are much more difficult for people to deal with. This is evidenced by the fact that average happiness in the United States – defined by a set of data that measure general well-being – dropped significantly with the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. Once stability was restored and uncertainty ended, happiness levels recovered quickly.
On Wednesday, April 21, Carol Graham explained how measures of happiness may be more novel barometers for well-being than more easily defined variables such as income or wealth. Seung Min Kim, assistant editor at POLITICO, moderated the discussion.