The controversies on the relationship (or `gradient’) between GDP and subjective well-being oppose those who claim that the gradient is positive and stable around the world to those who argue that long-run trends of subjective well-being are flat despite economic growth. The possible existence of structural breaks of the gradient within the same country is a challenge to both views. By focusing on the case of Italy, we show that the long-run trends of GDP and of well-being turned from increasing to decreasing, and the gradient exhibits a rise through two structural breaks. Macro and micro analyses explain why the gradient changes, and we find evidence consistent with the `loss aversion’ hypothesis. In addition, the gradient changed because the erosion of trust in others, the increase of financial dissatisfaction and worsened health hinder well-being independently from income.
Published in SIR. Previous version as working paper.