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Did the Decline in Social Capital Depress Americans’ Happiness?

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  • Stefano Bartolini

    ()

  • Ennio Bilancini

    ()

  • Maurizio Pugno

    ()

Abstract

Most popular explanations cannot fully account for the declining trend of U.S. reported well-being during the last thirty years. We test the hypothesis that the relationship between social capital and happiness at the individual level accounts for what is left unexplained by previous research. We provide three main findings. First, several indicators of social capital are significantly correlated with reported happiness. Second, social capital indicators for the period 1975-2004 show a declining trend. Finally, the trend of happiness can be largely accounted for by the increasing trend of income, the increasing trend of reference income and the declining trend of social capital – in particular by the decline of its relational and non-instrumental components

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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Siena in its series Department of Economics University of Siena with number 540.

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Date of creation: Aug 2008
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Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:540

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Keywords: happiness; social capital; economic growth; relational goods; intrinsic motivations;

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  1. Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2005. "Gross National Happiness as an Answer to the Easterlin Paradox?," Macroeconomics 0504027, EconWPA.
  2. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R.J.: Oswald, A.J., 1997. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," Papers 19, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  3. Welsch, Heinz, 2006. "Environment and happiness: Valuation of air pollution using life satisfaction data," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(4), pages 801-813, July.
  4. John F. Helliwell, 2006. "Well-Being, Social Capital and Public Policy: What's New?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages C34-C45, 03.
  5. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2004. "How Important is Methodology for the estimates of the determinants of Happiness?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 641-659, 07.
  6. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2002. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 402-435, June.
  7. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  8. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  9. 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.
  10. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2009. "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness," NBER Working Papers 14969, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Alberto Alesina & Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2001. "Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?," NBER Working Papers 8198, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 489-520.
  13. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada & Gowdy, John M., 2007. "Environmental degradation and happiness," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 509-516, January.
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