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Happiness Is...

We're getting richer, but we're not getting happier.

This story appears in the January 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

We know Bill Gates is rich. And successful. In fact, those labels seem too mild for him. He is, quite simply, the richest man in America and the most wildly successful entrepreneur entering the 21st century. But is he happy?

If you're seeking an improved entrepreneurial existence this year, keep in mind that happiness is in no way connected to wealth. Richard Easterlin, an economic historian with the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, has found that, although the gross domestic product per capita in the United States has more than doubled in the past half century, there has been absolutely no improvement in the percentage of happy people. "Even though each generation has more income than its predecessor, each generation wants more than its predecessor," says Easterlin, who points out one of our most enduring cultural beliefs is that another 10 percent to 20 percent increase in income would make each one of us perfectly happy.

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