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Happiness and Economic Performance

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  • Oswald, Andrew

Abstract

If a nation's economic performance improves, how much extra happiness does that buy its citizens? Most public debate assumes - without real evidence - that the answer is a lot. This paper examines the question by using information on well-being in Western countries. The data are of four kinds : on reported happiness, on reported life satisfaction, on reported job satisfaction, and on the number of suicides. These reveal patterns that are not visible to the anecdotal eye. In industrialized countries, well-being appears to rise as real national income grows. But the rise is so small as to be sometimes almost undetectable. Unemployment, however, seems to be a large source of unhappiness. This suggests that governments ought to be trying to reduce the amount of joblessness in the economy. In a country that is already rich, policy aimed instead at raising economic growth may be of comparatively little value.

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File URL: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/workingpapers/1995-1998/happecperf.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Warwick, Department of Economics in its series The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) with number 478.

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Length: 28 pages
Date of creation: 1997
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:478

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  1. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
  2. Anders Björklund, 1985. "Unemployment and Mental Health: Some Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 20(4), pages 469-483.
  3. Blanchflower, D.G. & Oswald, A., 1991. "What Makes an Entrepreneur?," Economics Series Working Papers 99125, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  4. Clark, A.E., 1995. "Job Satisfaction and Gender: Why Are Women so Happy at Work?," DELTA Working Papers 95-10, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  5. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 1997. "The Rising Well-Being of the Young," NBER Working Papers 6102, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Doh Shin, 1980. "Does rapid economic growth improve the human lot? Some empirical evidence," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 199-221, June.
  7. Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert J. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 615, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  8. Craig Fox & Daniel Kahneman, 1992. "Correlations, causes and heuristics in surveys of life satisfaction," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 221-234, November.
  9. Robin Douthitt & Maurice Macdonald & Randolph Mullis, 1992. "The relationship between measures of subjective and economic well-being: A new look," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 26(4), pages 407-422, June.
  10. Nicholas Crafts, 1997. "Some dimensions of the 'quality of life' during the British industrial revolution," Economic History Working Papers 20349, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
  11. David Blanchflower & Richard Freeman, 1993. "The Legacy of Communist Labor Relations," CEP Discussion Papers dp0180, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  12. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
  13. Oswald, Andrew J., 1983. "Altruism, jealousy and the theory of optimal non-linear taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 77-87, February.
  14. 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.
  15. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
  16. Layard, Richard, 1980. "Human Satisfactions and Public Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(363), pages 737-50, December.
  17. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  18. Yew-Kwang Ng, 1996. "Happiness surveys: Some comparability issues and an exploratory survey based on just perceivable increments," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 1-27, May.
  19. 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.
  20. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J. & Warr, Peter B., 1994. "Is job satisfaction u-shaped in age ?," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9407, CEPREMAP.
  21. Gerlach, Knut & Stephan, Gesine, 1996. "A paper on unhappiness and unemployment in Germany," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 325-330, September.
  22. Christopher T. Whelan, 1991. "The Role of Income, Life-Style Deprivation and Financial Strain in Mediating the Impact of Unemployment on Psychological Distress. Published in Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, V," Papers WP020, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
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