Gregg Easterbrook‘s book, the Progress Paradox discusses how our living standards have improved greatly, but out levels of happiness have stayed the same.
Many economists and psychologists are now trying to measure happiness and look at determinants of happiness. A great book from a psychologist’s perspective is Daniel Gilbert’s “Stumbling on Happiness.“
The Economist discusses this paradox in the following quote:
“Capitalism, it notes, is adept at turning luxuries into necessities–bringing to the masses what the elites have always enjoyed. But the flip side of this genius is that people come to take for granted things they once coveted from afar. Frills they never thought they could have become essentials that the cannot do without”