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Death, Happiness, and the Calculation of Compensatory Damages

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  • Andrew J. Oswald
  • Nattavudh Powdthavee

Abstract

This paper presents a study of the mental distress caused by bereavement. The greatest emotional losses are from the death of a spouse, the second greatest from the death of a child, and the third from the death of a parent. The paper explores how happiness regression equations might be used in tort cases to calculate compensatory damages for emotional harm and pain and suffering. We examine alternative well-being variables, discuss adaptation, consider the possibility that bereavement affects someone's marginal utility of income, and suggest a procedure for correcting for the endogeneity of income. Although the paper's contribution is methodological and further research is needed, some illustrative compensation amounts are discussed. (c) 2008 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved..

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Legal Studies.

Volume (Year): 37 (2008)
Issue (Month): S2 (06)
Pages: S217-S251

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:37:y:2008:i:s2:p:s217-s251

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  1. Rafael Di Tella & Robert J. MacCulloch & Andrew J. Oswald, 2003. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 809-827, November.
  2. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2007. "Are there Geographical Variations in the Psychological Cost of Unemployment in South Africa?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 80(3), pages 629-652, February.
  3. Bernard M.S. van Praag & B.E. Baarsma, 2004. "Using Happiness Surveys to value Intangibles; the Case of Airport Noise," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 04-024/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  4. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2005. "Unhappiness and Crime: Evidence from South Africa," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 72(3), pages 531-547, 08.
  5. Wim Groot & Henriļæ½tte Maassen van den Brink & Erik Plug, 2004. "Money for health: the equivalent variation of cardiovascular diseases," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(9), pages 859-872.
  6. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(1), pages 267-288, 02.
  7. Michael A. Shields & Stephen Wheatley Price, 2005. "Exploring the economic and social determinants of psychological well-being and perceived social support in England," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(3), pages 513-537.
  8. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  9. Oswald, A.J., 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Papers 18, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  10. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  11. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Bernard M. S. van Praag, 2001. "The Subjective Costs of Health Losses Due to Chronic Diseases: An Alternative Model for Monetary Appraisal," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 262, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  12. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2008. "Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
  13. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
  14. Shields, Michael A. & Wheatley Price, Stephen, 2001. "Exploring the Economic and Social Determinants of Psychological and Psychosocial Health," IZA Discussion Papers 396, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  15. Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J., 2005. "Do Divorcing Couples Become Happier By Breaking Up?," IZA Discussion Papers 1788, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. Cooter, Robert D., 2003. "Hand Rule Damages for Incompensable Losses," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt5rf3f1m2, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  17. Luis Rayo & Gary S. Becker, 2007. "Evolutionary Efficiency and Happiness," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 302-337.
  18. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2006. "Income and happiness: Evidence, explanations and economic implications," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590436, HAL.
  19. Sunstein, Cass R & Schkade, David A & Kahneman, Daniel, 2000. "Do People Want Optimal Deterrence?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 237-53, January.
  20. Menzel, Paul & Dolan, Paul & Richardson, Jeff & Olsen, Jan Abel, 2002. "The role of adaptation to disability and disease in health state valuation: a preliminary normative analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(12), pages 2149-2158, December.
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  1. The economics of bereavement
    by Chris Sampson in The Academic Health Economists' Blog on 2013-06-20 05:59:52
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