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Is Well-being U-Shaped over the Life Cycle?

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  • David G. Blanchflower
  • Andrew Oswald

Abstract

Recent research has argued that psychological well-being is U-shaped through the life cycle. The difficulty with such a claim is that there are likely to be omitted cohort effects (earlier generations may have been born in, say, particularly good or bad times). Hence the apparent U may be an artifact. Using data on approximately 500,000 Americans and Europeans, this paper designs a test that makes it possible to allow for different birth-cohorts. A robust U-shape of happiness in age is found. Ceteris paribus, well-being reaches a minimum, on both sides of the Atlantic, in people's mid to late 40s. The paper also shows that in the United States the well-being of successive birth-cohorts has gradually fallen through time. In Europe, newer birth-cohorts are happier.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12935.

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Date of creation: Feb 2007
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Publication status: published as Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(8), pages 1733-1749, April.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12935

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  1. Blanchflower, David G., 2001. "Unemployment, Well-Being, and Wage Curves in Eastern and Central Europe," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 364-402, December.
  2. Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2003. "Unhappiness and Crime : Evidence from South Africa," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 685, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
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  4. 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.
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  21. repec:pse:psecon:2006-29 is not listed on IDEAS
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  23. Uppal, Sharanjit, 2006. "Impact of the timing, type and severity of disability on the subjective well-being of individuals with disabilities," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 63(2), pages 525-539, July.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Money, reputation and happiness
    by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2009-03-05 17:27:55
  2. Happiness and age
    by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2007-11-29 11:26:09
  3. Some new happiness research
    by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2009-11-24 14:04:24
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