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A Note on the High Stability of Happiness: The Minimal Effects of a Nuclear Catastrophe on Life Satisfaction

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  • Eva M. Berger

Abstract

Using life satisfaction as a direct measure of individual utility has become popular in the empirical economic literature. In this context, it is crucial to know what circumstances or changes the measure is sensitive to. Is life satisfaction a volatile concept that is affected by minor changes in life circumstances? Or is it a reliable measure of personal happiness? This paper will analyze the impact of a catastrophe, namely the nuclear catastrophe of Chernobyl, on life satisfaction. I use longitudinal data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Study and especially information collected on a monthly basis which allows the researcher to study calendar effects. The following clear-cut results are found. While concern about the environment rose immediately after the nuclear incident, life satisfaction changed little. This suggests that although people were aware of the severity of the catastrophe, they did not feel that their individual well-being had been affected. This finding is highly relevant to the life satisfaction literature as it shows that the life satisfaction measure is very stable and robust against societal and global events. It is shown to predominantly reflect personal life circumstances like health, employment, income, and the family situation and this relationship is apparently not disturbed by global events. Thus, my results reinforce previous findings on the relationship between life satisfaction and individual life characteristics as the stability of their outcome measure is approved.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research in its series Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin with number 803.

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Length: 15 p.
Date of creation: 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp803

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Keywords: Subjective Well-Being; Happiness; Environmental Protection; Household Panel; SOEP;

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  1. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2002. "How important is Methodology for the Estimates of the Determinants of Happiness?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers, Tinbergen Institute 02-024/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  2. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew Oswald, 2007. "Is Well-being U-Shaped over the Life Cycle?," NBER Working Papers 12935, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jörg Dittmann, 2005. "Entwicklung der Kriminalitätseinstellungen in Deutschland: eine Zeitreihenanalyse anhand allgemeiner Bevölkerungsumfragen," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 468, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  4. Andreas Knabe & Steffen Ratzel, 2011. "Quantifying the psychological costs of unemployment: the role of permanent income," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(21), pages 2751-2763.
  5. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2002. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 402-435, June.
  6. Clark, Andrew E., 2007. "Born To Be Mild? Cohort Effects Don’t (Fully) Explain Why Well-Being Is U-Shaped in Age," IZA Discussion Papers 3170, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Paul Frijters & John P. Haisken-DeNew & Michael A. Shields, 2004. "Investigating the Patterns and Determinants of Life Satisfaction in Germany Following Reunification," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(3).
  8. Easterlin, Richard A., 2006. "Life cycle happiness and its sources: Intersections of psychology, economics, and demography," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 463-482, August.
  9. Paul Frijters & John P. Haisken-DeNew & Michael A. Shields, 2004. "Money Does Matter! Evidence from Increasing Real Income and Life Satisfaction in East Germany Following Reunification," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 730-740, June.
  10. Gert G. Wagner & Joachim R. Frick & Jürgen Schupp, 2007. "The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP): Scope, Evolution and Enhancements," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 1, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  11. Ulrich Schimmack & Jürgen Schupp & Gert Wagner, 2008. "The Influence of Environment and Personality on the Affective and Cognitive Component of Subjective Well-being," Social Indicators Research, Springer, Springer, vol. 89(1), pages 41-60, October.
  12. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-84, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Susana Ferreira & Mirko Moro, 2010. "On the Use of Subjective Well-Being Data for Environmental Valuation," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 46(3), pages 249-273, July.

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