Richard Easterlin

Richard EasterlinRichard A. Easterlin is University Professor and Professor of Economics at the University of Southern California. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a former Guggenheim Fellow, and past president of the Population Association of America, and the Economic History Association. Professor Easterlin is often seen on campus discussing his research on happiness. However, his studies have covered subjects ranging from the post-World War II American baby boom and bust to welfare and its relation to modern economic growth.

Basic research interests include subjective well-being, demography and economic history. Professor Easterlin’s departmental web page has the following:

“My basic research motivation has been to understand better various real world conditions. Some of the things I’ve studied are:

  • the reasons for the limited spread of modern economic growth;
  • the meaning of welfare and its relation to economic growth;
  • the transition from high to low mortality and fertility that has invariably accompanied modernization;
  • “long swings” of 15 to 25 years in population and economic growth in the US and other developed countries;
  • the post-World War II American baby boom and bust

Progress on these problems has often involved empirical work to establish more clearly the facts to be explained – such as estimating regional incomes, reconstruction of trends in childbearing behavior in the US, and establishing the rise of school enrollments in countries throughout the world. It has required the use of economic theory to organize data and formulate hypotheses, and led to new theorizing on topics such as childbearing behavior and subjective well-being. It has also called for work in other social sciences and for learning new techniques and concepts that fall outside the purview of economics, such as demographic methodology and theories of “relative deprivation”, “natural” (i.e. unregulated) fertility, and hedonic adaptation.

Currently I am studying changes in subjective well-being over the life cycle, applying the demographers’ technique of cohort analysis to social survey data. The aim is to clarify the role in determining people’s feelings of well-being of circumstances such as living levels, family life, health, and job conditions.”