The Half-Life of Happiness: Hedonic Adaptation in the Subjective Well-Being of Poor Slum Dwellers to a Large Improvement in Housing
Subjective well-being may not improve in step with increases in material well-being due to hedonic adaptation, a psychological process that attenuates the long-term emotional impact of a favorable or unfavorable change in circumstances, such that people’s happiness eventually returns to a stable reference level. We use a multi-country field experiment to examine the impact of the provision of improved housing to extremely poor populations on subjective measures of well-being to test whether poor populations exhibit hedonic adaptation when their basic housing needs are met. After sixteen months, we find that subjective perceptions of well-being improve substantially for recipients of better housing but that after, on average, eight additional months, 60% of that gain disappears.
The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Sebastian Galiani, Paul J Gertler, Raimundo Undurraga; The Half-Life of Happiness: Hedonic Adaptation in the Subjective Well-Being of Poor Slum Dwellers to the Satisfaction of Basic Housing Needs, Journal of the European Economic Association, , jvx042, https://doi.org/10.1093/jeea/jvx042