Unmet Aspirations as an Explanation for the Age U-Shape in Human Wellbeing
AbstractA large literature in behavioral and social sciences has found that human wellbeing follows a U-shape over age. Some theories have assumed that the U-shape is caused by unmet expectations that are felt painfully in midlife but beneficially abandoned and experienced with less regret during old age. In a unique panel of 132,609 life satisfaction expectations matched to subsequent realizations, I find people to err systematically in predicting their life satisfaction over the life cycle. They expect -- incorrectly -- increases in young adulthood and decreases during old age. These errors are large, ranging from 9.8% at age 21 to -4.5% at age 68, they are stable over time and observed across socio-economic groups. These findings support theories that unmet expectations drive the age U-shape in wellbeing.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp1229.
Date of creation: Jul 2013
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Life satisfaction; expectations; aging;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
- I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
- D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-AGE-2013-08-05 (Economics of Ageing)
- NEP-ALL-2013-08-05 (All new papers)
- NEP-DEM-2013-08-05 (Demographic Economics)
- NEP-HAP-2013-08-05 (Economics of Happiness)
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Paul Frijters & Tony Beatton, 2008.
"The mystery of the U-shaped relationship between happiness and age,"
NCER Working Paper Series
26, National Centre for Econometric Research.
- Frijters, Paul & Beatton, Tony, 2012. "The mystery of the U-shaped relationship between happiness and age," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 525-542.
- Weiss, Alexander & King, James E. & Inoue-Murayama, Miho & Matsuzawa, Tetsuro & Oswald, Andrew J., 2012. "Evidence for a ‘Midlife Crisis’ in Great Apes Consistent with the U-Shape in Human Well-Being," IZA Discussion Papers 7009, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
- Oswald, Andrew J. & Wu, Stephen, 2010. "Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-being: Evidence from the USA," IZA Discussion Papers 4695, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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