Researchers have long argued, says Ron Bailey, that what really matters for a person's overall life satisfaction is relative income. The implication is that if relative socioeconomic positions don't change when everyone gets richer together, a country's average happiness doesn't increase. Getting ahead of the Joneses makes a person happier, but merely keeping up with them does not.
But in recent years, additional research has cast doubt on the concept. Maybe more cash makes people happier after all.