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Education, income, and the distribution of happiness

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  • Owen, Ann
  • Phillips, Anne

Abstract

We study happiness inequality in the United States using data from the 2005 to 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). We aggregate individual level data to the state level and study how the average life satisfaction of various income, education, and life satisfaction groups changes with the average life satisfaction of the state. We find that the life satisfaction of the least happy does not increase in equal proportion with the average happiness of society, suggesting that increasing happiness levels are likely to lead to greater happiness inequality. However, the life satisfaction of the poorest and least educated does increase in equal proportions with average life satisfaction. Taken together, these results indicate that directed policies aimed at increasing the income of the poor or education levels of the least educated could result in less inequality in the distribution of welfare.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 49387.

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Date of creation: Jul 2013
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:49387

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Keywords: happiness inequality; happiness of poor; happiness of educated;

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  1. Bernard M.S. Van Praag, 2010. "Well-being Inequality and Reference Groups - An Agenda for New Research," CESifo Working Paper Series 2984, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2013. "Subjective and Objective Indicators of Racial Progress," CEPR Discussion Papers 9408, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
  4. Dollar, David & Kraay, Aart, 2002. " Growth Is Good for the Poor," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 195-225, September.
  5. Karen E. Dynan & Enrichetta Ravina, 2007. "Increasing Income Inequality, External Habits, and Self-Reported Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 226-231, May.
  6. Jan Ott, 2005. "Level and Inequality of Happiness in Nations: Does Greater Happiness of a Greater Number Imply Greater Inequality in Happiness?," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 397-420, December.
  7. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "What can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," IEW - Working Papers 080, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  8. Wim Kalmijn & Ruut Veenhoven, 2005. "Measuring Inequality of Happiness in Nations: In Search for Proper Statistics," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 357-396, December.
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