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Genes, Economics, and Happiness

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  • Jan-Emmanuel De Neve
  • Nicholas A. Christakis
  • James H. Fowler
  • Bruno S. Frey

Abstract

Research on happiness has produced valuable insights into the sources of subjective well-being that are of importance to economics. A major nding from this literature is that people exhibit a "baseline" level of happiness that shows persistent strength over time. Here we explore the extent to which baseline happiness is in uenced by genetic variation. Using data from Add Health, we employ a twin study design to show that ge- netic variation explains about 33% of the variation in happiness, and that the in uence of genes varies by gender (women 26%, men 39%) and tends to rise with age. We also present evidence that variation in a specific gene predicts happiness. Individuals with a transcriptionally more eficient version of the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) are significantly more likely to report higher levels of life satisfaction|having one or two alleles of the more eficient type raises the average likelihood of being very satis ed with one's life by 8.5% and 17.3%, respectively. Finally, using data from an indepen- dent source (the Framingham Heart Study) we show that a linked single nucleotide polymorphism (rs2020933) in the SLC6A4 gene also predicts life satisfaction. These results are the rst to identify a specific gene that may be associated with baseline levels of happiness.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA) in its series CREMA Working Paper Series with number 2010-24.

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Date of creation: Dec 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cra:wpaper:2010-24

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Keywords: academia; Happiness; Subjective Well-Being; Genetics;

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  1. Allcott, Hunt & Karlan, Dean & Mobius, Markus & Rosenblat, Tanya & Szeidl, Adam, 2010. "Community Size and Network Closure," Staff General Research Papers 32110, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
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Cited by:
  1. Adrian Chadi, 2014. "Regional unemployment and norm-induced effects on life satisfaction," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 46(3), pages 1111-1141, May.
  2. Otrachshenko, Vladimir & Popova, Olga, 2014. "Life (dis)satisfaction and the intention to migrate: Evidence from Central and Eastern Europe," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 40-49.
  3. Richard Layard & Andrew Clark & Nattavudh Powdthavee & Francesca Cornaglia, 2013. "What predicts a successful life? A life-course model of well-being," Sciences Po Economics Discussion Papers 2013-16, Sciences Po Departement of Economics.
  4. Proto, Eugenio & Oswald, Andrew J., 2014. "National Happiness and Genetic Distance: A Cautious Exploration," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 196, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  5. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & Ed Diener & Louis Tay & Cody Xuereb, 2013. "The Objective Benefits of Subjective Well-Being," CEP Discussion Papers dp1236, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  6. Vanessa Mertins & Andrea B. Schote & Jobst Meyer, 2013. "Variants of the Monoamine Oxidase A Gene (MAOA) Predict Free-riding Behavior in Women in a Strategic Public Goods Experiment," IAAEU Discussion Papers 201302, Institute of Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union (IAAEU).
  7. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & Ed Diener & Louis Tay & Cody Xuereb, 2013. "The objective benefits of subjective well-being," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 51669, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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