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Is Business Cycle Volatility Costly? Evidence from Surveys of Subjective Well-Being

  • Wolfers, Justin

This paper analyses 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. Copyright 2003 by Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal International Finance.

Volume (Year): 6 (2003)
Issue (Month): 1 (Spring)
Pages: 1-26

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Handle: RePEc:bla:intfin:v:6:y:2003:i:1:p:1-26
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  1. Laurence M. Ball, 1997. "Disinflation and the NAIRU," NBER Chapters, in: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy, pages 167-194 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Robert J. Shiller, 1997. "Why Do People Dislike Inflation?," NBER Chapters, in: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy, pages 13-70 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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.
  4. Laurence Ball, 1993. "What determines the sacrifice ratio?," Working Papers 93-21, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.
  5. Guy Debelle & Douglas Laxton, 1997. "Is the Phillips Curve Really a Curve? Some Evidence for Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 44(2), pages 249-282, June.
  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. Romer, Christina, 1986. "Spurious Volatility in Historical Unemployment Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(1), pages 1-37, February.
  8. Bernanke, Ben S, 1983. "Irreversibility, Uncertainty, and Cyclical Investment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 98(1), pages 85-106, February.
  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. 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.
  11. Olivier Blanchard & Justin Wolfers, 1999. "The Role of Shocks and Institutions in the Rise of European Unemployment: The Aggregate Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7282, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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