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Is Business Cycle Volatility Costly? Evidence from Surveys of Subjective Wellbeing

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  • Justin Wolfers

Abstract

This paper analyzes the effects of business cycle volatility on measures of subjective well-being, including self-reported happiness and life satisfaction. I find robust evidence that high inflation and, to a greater extent, unemployment lower perceived well-being. Greater macroeconomic volatility also undermines well-being. These effects are moderate but important: eliminating unemployment volatility would raise well-being by an amount roughly equal to that from lowering the average level of unemployment by a quarter of a percentage point. The effects of inflation volatility on well-being are less easy to detect and are likely smaller.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 9619.

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Date of creation: Apr 2003
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Publication status: published as Wolfers, Justin. "Is Business Cycle Volatility Costly? Evidence From Surveys Of Subjective Well-Being," International Finance, 2003, v6(1,Apr), 1-26.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9619

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  1. Robert J. Shiller, 1996. "Why Do People Dislike Inflation?," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1115, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  2. Bernanke, Ben S, 1983. "Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Cyclical Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(1), pages 85-106, February.
  3. Laurence Ball, 1993. "What determines the sacrifice ratio?," Working Papers 93-21, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  4. Blanchard, Olivier & Wolfers, Justin, 2000. "The Role of Shocks and Institutions in the Rise of European Unemployment: The Aggregate Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(462), pages C1-33, March.
  5. Romer, Christina, 1986. "Spurious Volatility in Historical Unemployment Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(1), pages 1-37, February.
  6. Boskin, Michael J & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1978. "Optimal Redistributive Taxation when Individual Welfare Depends upon Relative Income," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 589-601, November.
  7. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  8. Douglas Laxton & Guy Debelle, 1996. "Is the Phillips Curve Really a Curve? Some Evidence for Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States," IMF Working Papers 96/111, International Monetary Fund.
  9. Andrew Atkeson & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets," NBER Working Papers 4719, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Laurence Ball, 1996. "Disinflation and the NAIRU," NBER Working Papers 5520, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Ramey, Garey & Ramey, Valerie A, 1995. "Cross-Country Evidence on the Link between Volatility and Growth," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1138-51, December.
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  1. The Economics of Happiness (Bernanke Commencement address)
    by Barry Ritholtz in the big picture on 2010-05-09 14:30:25
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