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Did the Decline in Social Connections Depress Americans’ Happiness?

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Author Info

  • Stefano Bartolini
  • Ennio Bilancini

    ()

  • Maurizio Pugno

Abstract

During the last 30 years US citizens experienced, on average, a decline in reported happiness, social connections, and confidence in institutions. We show that a remarkable portion of the decrease in happiness is predicted by the decline in social connections and confidence in institutions. We carry out our investigation in three steps. First, we run a happiness regression that includes various indicators of social connections and confidence in institutions, alongside with own income, reference income, and the usual socio-demographic controls. We find that indicators of social connections and confidence in institutions are positively and significantly correlated with happiness. Second, we investigate the evolution of social connections and confidence in institutions over time, finding that they generally show a declining trend. Third, we calculate the variation in happiness over time as predicted by each of its statistically significant correlates, finding that the decrease in happiness is mainly predicted by the decline in social connections and by the growth in reference income. More precisely, the sum of the negative changes in happiness predicted by the reduction in social connections and the increase in reference income more than offsets the positive change predicted by the growth of household income. Also, the reduction in happiness predicted by the decline in confidence in institutions is non-negligible, although substantially smaller than the one predicted by either social connections or reference income. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2013

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s11205-011-9971-x
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Springer in its journal Social Indicators Research.

Volume (Year): 110 (2013)
Issue (Month): 3 (February)
Pages: 1033-1059

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Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:110:y:2013:i:3:p:1033-1059

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Web page: http://www.springer.com/economics/journal/11135

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Related research

Keywords: Social connections; Trust in institutions; Social capital; Happiness; Subjective well-being; Easterlin paradox; Relational goods; Intrinsic motivations;

References

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. A. Antoci & F. Sabatini & M. Sodini, 2014. "Online and offline social participation and social poverty traps. Can social networks save human relations?," Working Paper CRENoS 201404, Centre for North South Economic Research, University of Cagliari and Sassari, Sardinia.
  2. Fabio Sabatini & Francesco Sarracino, 2014. "Will Facebook save or destroy social capital? An empirical investigation into the effect of online interactions on trust and networks," EERI Research Paper Series EERI RP 2014/02, Economics and Econometrics Research Institute (EERI), Brussels.
  3. Drakopoulos, Stavros A. & Grimani, Katerina, 2013. "Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy and the Effect of Income on Happiness Levels," MPRA Paper 50987, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Sabatini, Fabio & Sarracino, Francesco, 2014. "Online networks and subjective well-being," MPRA Paper 56436, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Martina Menon & Ravi Pendakur & Federico Perali, 2014. "All in the Family: How Do Social Capital and Material Wellbeing Affect Relational Wellbeing?," Working Papers 03/2014, University of Verona, Department of Economics.
  6. Ennio Bilancini & Simone D’Alessandro, 2011. "Long-run Welfare under Externalities in Consumption, Leisure, and Production: A Case for Happy Degrowth vs. Unhappy Growth," Department of Economics 0667, University of Modena and Reggio E., Faculty of Economics "Marco Biagi".
  7. Andriani, Luca & Sabatini, Fabio, 2013. "Trust and prosocial behaviour in a process of state capacity building: the case of the Palestinian Territories," MPRA Paper 51003, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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