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Well-Being over the Life Span: Semiparametric Evidence from British and German Longitudinal Data

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Author Info

  • Christoph Wunder
  • Andrea Wiencierz
  • Johannes Schwarze
  • Helmut Küchenhoff
  • Sara Kleyer
  • Philipp Bleninger
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    Abstract

    This paper applies semiparametric regression models using penalized splines to investigate the profile of well-being over the life span. Splines have the advantage that they do not require a priori assumptions about the form of the curve. Using data from the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP), the analysis shows a common, quite similar, age-specific pattern of life satisfaction for both Britain and Germany that can be characterized by three age stages. In the first stage, life satisfaction declines until approximately the fifth life decade. In the second age stage, well-being clearly increases and has a second turning point (maximum) after which well-being decreases in the third age stage. Several reasons for the three-phase pattern are discussed. We point to the fact that neither polynomial functions of the third nor the fourth degree describe the relationship adequately: polynomials locate the minimum and the maximum imprecisely. In addition, our analysis discusses the indistinguishability of age, period, and cohort effects: we propose estimating age-period models that control for cohort effects including substantive variables, such as the life expectancy of the birth cohort, and further observed socioeconomic characteristics in the regression.

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    File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.97990.de/dp889.pdf
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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 889.

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    Length: 39 p.
    Date of creation: 2009
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp889

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    Keywords: Subjective well-being; life satisfaction; semiparametric regression; penalized splines; age-period model; age-cohort model;

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    Cited by:
    1. 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.
    2. Bernard M.S. van Praag, 2010. "Well-Being Inequality and Reference Groups - An Agenda for New Research," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 10-015/3, Tinbergen Institute, revised 03 Mar 2010.
    3. Wunder, Christoph & Schwarze, Johannes, 2009. "Is Posner Right? An Empirical Test of the Posner Argument for Transferring Health Spending from Old Women to Old Men," IZA Discussion Papers 4485, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Bernard M.S. van Praag, 2010. "Well-Being Inequality and Reference Groups - An Agenda for New Research," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 10-015/3, Tinbergen Institute, revised 03 Mar 2010.

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