RAISING a country from poverty to affluence should make the nations population happier, right? Wrong, according to a new study of 54 countries worldwide. Money doesnt buy happiness over the long term, the study found. The results apply to developed and developing countries worldwide, said study researcher Richard Easterlin, a professor of economics at the University of Southern California. Happiness doesnt increase with the rate of economic growth even in less-developed countries or transitional countries, Easterlin told LiveScience. We already know that to be true of developed countries, but now its been extended to countries of lower levels of income. Easterlin and his colleagues reported the results this week (Dec. 13) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Almost 40 years ago, Easterlin discovered a strange economic pattern in the United States: If you look at snapshot data, richer people are happier than poorer people, and wealthier countries have more satisfied populations than less well-off nations. But when you look at data collected over time, more income doesnt bring happiness. If you look across countries and compare happiness and GDP per capita, you find that the higher the countrys income, the more likely it is to be happier, Easterlin said. So the expectation based on point-in-time data is if income goes up, then happiness will go up. The paradox is, when you look at change over time, that doesnt happen. [U.S. is Richest Nation, But Not Happiest] The 'Easterlin paradox, as it is known, has been the subject of much academic debate. The new study, Easterlin said, is the broadest finding about the paradox so far. The researchers gathered between 10 and 34 years of happiness data from 17 Latin American countries, 17 developed countries, 11 Eastern European countries transitioning from socialism to capitalism and nine-less developed countries. They found no relationship between economic growth and happiness in any case. Even in a country like China, the researchers wrote, where per capita income has doubled in 10 years, happiness levels havent budged. South Korea and Chile have shown similarly astronomical economic growth with no increase in satisfaction. With incomes rising so rapidly in these three different countries, it seems extraordinary that there are no surveys that register the marked improvement in subjective well-being that mainstream economists and policy makers worldwide would expect to ?nd, the researchers wrote.The paradox seems impossible on the surface, but theres good reason happiness and income could be linked in the short-term and not over many years, according to Easterlin. As peoples incomes rise, he said, so do their aspirations. When incomes fall, he said, aspirations dont. No one wants to give up the standard of living theyve grown accustomed to. So in the short term, an economic collapse is painful, while growth feels good. Fox News