All modern nations reduce income differences to some extent, and as a result there is an ongoing discussion about what degree of income inequality is acceptable. In this discussion libertarians oppose egalitarians and a principled consensus between these positions is not possible. This paper follows a utilitarian approach and considers the relation between income inequality and happiness in 75 nations. Four variants of utilitarianism are applied: 1) standard utilitarianism using average happiness in nations, 2) egalitarian utilitarianism using inequality in happiness in nations, 3) negative utilitarianism using the percentage unhappy citizens in nations and 4) ‘Rawlsian’ utilitarianism using the happiness of the poor people in nations. None of these analyses show a distinct effect of income inequality on the happiness of citizens.

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Mens en Maatschappij: tijdschrift voor sociale wetenschappen
Department of Sociology

Berg, M. (2007). Inkomensongelijkheid en geluk in landen. Mens en Maatschappij: tijdschrift voor sociale wetenschappen. Retrieved from