The Hindu Editorial Analysis
20 September 2021


1) The relative income, subjective well-being connect: A key policy lesson would be to pursue a strategy of shared growth through remunerative employment

  1. Page 6/Editorial
  2. GS 2: Governance, GS 4: Ethics

Context: While the centrality of the notion of well-being is hard to dispute, its measurement is far from straightforward.

    • This article/ analysis draws upon the two rounds of the nationally representative India Human Development Survey (IHDS), conducted by National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) and University of Maryland, covering the years 2005 and 2012.


Measurement of Well-Being - There are two distinct approaches to measurement of well-being:

    1. The conventional approach of measuring it in terms of objective criterion such as income/expenditure; and
    2. Measure of subjective well-being/life satisfaction/happiness that takes into account not just objective criteria such as income but also individual characteristics including age, gender, schooling, religion, caste, marital status, health, employment, social networks, and the overall economic and natural environment. Its intuitive appeal is that these are influenced not just by objective criterion of income/expenditure but also by perceptions of individuals about their experiences of whether they are better-off, just the same or worse-off.


Relation between Subjective well being & Income:

    1. Well being and income/expenditure are positively related but at a diminishing rate.
    2. Relative income Hypothesis: Developed by James Duesenberry, the relative income hypothesis states that an individual's attitude to consumption and saving is dictated more by his income in relation to others than by abstract standard of living. Rank in the income distribution influences life satisfaction.
    3. Easterlin paradox (1973): SWB/happiness varies directly with income both among and within nations, but over time, happiness does not trend upward as income continues to grow.
    4. As a society becomes richer, the average rank does not change and thus average life-satisfaction remains stable despite income growth.
    5. The relative income hypothesis cannot by itself explain why a permanent increase in an individual’s income has a transitory effect on his/her well-being, as relative standing would increase.
    6. However, the increase in relative standing can be offset by change in the reference group: with this increase, the new peers serve as a reference point, and the previous peers lose salience.


Minor lasting of material goods:

    • Material happiness don’t last: Individuals adapt to material goods, and these goods yield little joy for most individuals. Thus, increases in income may in fact have minor lasting effect because consumption of material goods has little effect on well-being above a certain level of consumption or because of hedonic adaptation.
    • Critique: This has been questioned on the grounds that there is no income threshold at which SWB diverged.  While there may be some point beyond which money loses its power to improve well-being, the current view is that the threshold may be higher than previously thought.



    • The lower the relative income, the lower is Subjective well being.
    • In sum, the important policy lesson is that, instead of relentless pursuit of income growth, more attention must be given to a strategy of shared growth through remunerative employment in order to enhance well-being.

Expected Question: Discuss the importance of equality in promoting well-being of the society. (150 Words, GS 4)


    • Empathy through education: Social and educational learning is not ‘fluff’; it is an important goal in education
      • Page 7/OPED
      • GS 2: Education, GS 4: Ethics

Context: The Article talks about social and emotional learning (SEL). India’s National Education Policy (2020) mentions social and emotional learning (SEL) as an important facet of education.

    • While the policy notes numeracy and literacy as its central aims, SEL should be an equally important goal as it supports skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.


Social and emotional learning (SEL): SEL is the process of learning to recognise and manage emotions and navigate social situations effectively.

    • SEL is foundational for human development, building healthy relationships, having self and social awareness, solving problems, making responsible decisions, and academic learning.
    • Importance in finding success: Research finds that students with greater social skills and emotional regulation are more likely to have success.


Key elements of SEL include cultivating empathy and theory of mind.

    • Empathy’ is the ability to understand another person’s emotions and be aware of why they might be feeling those emotions from their perspective.
    • ‘Theory of mind’ is the ability to understand others’ intentions, knowledge and beliefs and recognise that those might be different from your own.


Roots in Psychology:

    • Neurobiologically, various brain regions such as the prefrontal and frontal cortices, amygdala, and superior temporal sulcus are involved in the cognitive mechanisms of SEL. Interestingly, scientists have proposed that the physiological and psychological factors of SEL are inherently linked.
    • Brain systems that are responsible for basic human behaviour, such as getting hungry, may be reused for complex mechanisms involved in SEL. This can explain why the way we feel physically directly impacts our social-emotional evaluation of the world.


Academic Pursuit:

    • Integration in Curriculum: Despite its importance to life, SEL is often added as a chapter in a larger curriculum rather than being integrated in it. To overcome this challenge, it is vital to consider that the learning process is a social and emotional experience.
    • Parental Connect provided by COVID-19: remote learning “gave parents the opportunity to discover their childrens’ social and emotional lives,” notes Jim Eagen, the head of Synapse school in California, where SEL is a key strategic pillar of the school. 


A way forward - Supporting SEL system:

    • Synapse school seamlessly incorporates SEL into curricula through self-science classes, and places SEL centrally within the school culture.
    • In reality, individuals from underprivileged backgrounds have faced immense learning losses over the last one and a half years. A starting point would be to consider insights from the Indian SEL framework:
      • Application of SEL practices should be based on students’ socioeconomic backgrounds;
      • SEL strategies of caretakers and educators must align with one another;
      1. Long-term success requires SEL to be based on scientific evidence.


Expected Question: What do you mean by 'Empathy'? Can it be developed through education at the school level? (150 Words, GS 4)