IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this article or follow this journal

Do we really know what makes us happy A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being

  • Dolan, Paul
  • Peasgood, Tessa
  • White, Mathew
Registered author(s):

    There is increasing interest in the "economics of happiness", reflected by the number of articles that are appearing in mainstream economics journals that consider subjective well-being (SWB) and its determinants. This paper provides a detailed review of this literature. It focuses on papers that have been published in economics journals since 1990, as well as some key reviews in psychology and important unpublished working papers. The evidence suggests that poor health, separation, unemployment and lack of social contact are all strongly negatively associated with SWB. However, the review highlights a range of problems in drawing firm conclusions about the causes of SWB; these include some contradictory evidence, concerns over the impact on the findings of potentially unobserved variables and the lack of certainty on the direction of causality. We should be able to address some of these problems as more panel data become available.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6V8H-4PPF62D-1/1/4808060335eb96a11fae0b2402eb0bc3
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Psychology.

    Volume (Year): 29 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 1 (February)
    Pages: 94-122

    as
    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:29:y:2008:i:1:p:94-122
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/joep

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as in new window
    1. Rainer Winkelmann, 2002. "Subjective Well-Being and the Family: Results from an Ordered Probit Model with Multiple Random Effects," SOI - Working Papers 0204, Socioeconomic Institute - University of Zurich, revised Jan 2004.
    2. Bernd Hayo & Wolfgang Seifert, 2002. "Subjective Economic Well-Being in Eastern Europe," Development and Comp Systems 0203001, EconWPA.
    3. Bernd Hayo, 2004. "Happiness in Eastern Europe," Marburg Working Papers on Economics 200412, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Faculty of Business Administration and Economics, Department of Economics (Volkswirtschaftliche Abteilung).
    4. Rehdanz, Katrin & Maddison, David, 2005. "Climate and happiness," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 111-125, January.
      • Katrin Rehdanz & David J. Maddison, 2003. "Climate and Happiness," Working Papers FNU-20, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Apr 2003.
    5. Kahneman, Daniel & Wakker, Peter P & Sarin, Rakesh, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-405, May.
    6. Bukenya, James O. & Gebremedhin, Tesfa G. & Schaeffer, Peter V., 2002. "Analysis Of Rural Quality Of Life And Health: A Spatial Approach," 2002 Annual meeting, July 28-31, Long Beach, CA 19878, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    7. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur Stone, 2004. "Toward National Well-Being Accounts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 429-434, May.
    8. Florian Pichler, 2006. "Subjective Quality of Life of Young Europeans. Feeling Happy but who Knows why?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 75(3), pages 419-444, 02.
    9. Brown, Sarah & Taylor, Karl & Wheatley Price, Stephen, 2005. "Debt and distress: Evaluating the psychological cost of credit," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 642-663, October.
    10. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2005. "Income and well-being: an empirical analysis of the comparison income effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 997-1019, June.
    11. David Dorn & Justina Fischer & Gebhard Kirchgässner & Alfonso Sousa-Poza, 2007. "Is It Culture or Democracy? The Impact of Democracy and Culture on Happiness," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 82(3), pages 505-526, July.
    12. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2000. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," NBER Working Papers 7487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Gerdtham, Ulf-G & Johannesson, Magnus, 1997. "The Relationship between Happiness, Health and Socio-economic Factors: Results Based on Swedish Micro Data," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 207, Stockholm School of Economics.
    14. Dehejia, Rajeev & DeLeire, Thomas & Luttmer, Erzo F.P., 2007. "Insuring consumption and happiness through religious organizations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(1-2), pages 259-279, February.
    15. Hirst, Michael, 2005. "Carer distress: A prospective, population-based study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 697-708, August.
    16. Di Tella, Rafael & Alesina, Alberto & MacCulloch, Robert, 2004. "Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?," Scholarly Articles 4553007, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    17. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2006. "Does Happiness Adapt? A Longitudinal Study of Disability with Implications for Economists and Judges," IZA Discussion Papers 2208, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    18. Blanchflower, David G & Oswald, Andrew J, 1998. "What Makes an Entrepreneur?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 16(1), pages 26-60, January.
    19. Schwarze, Johannes & Härpfer, Marco, 2003. "Are People Inequality Averse, and Do They Prefer Redistribution by the State? A Revised Version," IZA Discussion Papers 974, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    20. Emily A. Greenfield & Nadine F. Marks, 2004. "Formal Volunteering as a Protective Factor for Older Adults' Psychological Well-Being," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 59(5), pages S258-S264.
    21. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    22. Andrew Clark, 2001. "Unemployment As A Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," DELTA Working Papers 2001-17, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
    23. Stutzer, Alois, 2004. "The role of income aspirations in individual happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 89-109, May.
    24. Rubens Penha Cysne, 2009. "On the Positive Correlation between Income Inequality and Unemployment," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(1), pages 218-226, February.
    25. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
    26. Max Haller & Markus Hadler, 2006. "How Social Relations and Structures can Produce Happiness and Unhappiness: An International Comparative Analysis," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 75(2), pages 169-216, 01.
    27. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada & Gowdy, John M., 2007. "Environmental degradation and happiness," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(3), pages 509-516, January.
    28. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2005. "Happiness and the Human Development Index: The Paradox of Australia," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 38(3), pages 307-318, 09.
    29. Christopher Peterson & Nansook Park & Martin Seligman, 2005. "Orientations to happiness and life satisfaction: the full life versus the empty life," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 6(1), pages 25-41, 03.
    30. O'Connell, Michael, 2004. "Fairly satisfied: Economic equality, wealth and satisfaction," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 25(3), pages 297-305, June.
    31. Justin Wolfers, 2003. "Is Business Cycle Volatility Costly? Evidence from Surveys of Subjective Wellbeing," NBER Working Papers 9619, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    32. Adam Cohen, 2002. "The Importance of Spirituality in Well-Being for Jews and Christians," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 3(3), pages 287-310, September.
    33. Michael A. Shields & Stephen Wheatley Price, 2005. "Exploring the economic and social determinants of psychological well-being and perceived social support in England," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(3), pages 513-537.
    34. 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.
    35. Rojas, Mariano, 2007. "Heterogeneity in the relationship between income and happiness: A conceptual-referent-theory explanation," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 1-14, January.
    36. 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.
    37. 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.
    38. John Hudson, 2006. "Institutional Trust and Subjective Well-Being across the EU," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(1), pages 43-62, 02.
    39. Gary Marks & Nicole Fleming, 1999. "Influences and Consequences of Well-being Among Australian Young People: 1980–1995," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 46(3), pages 301-323, March.
    40. Luttmer, Erzo F. P., 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," Working Paper Series rwp04-029, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    41. Lindsey Baker & Lawrence Cahalin & Kerstin Gerst & Jeffrey Burr, 2005. "Productive Activities And Subjective Well-Being Among Older Adults: The Influence Of Number Of Activities And Time Commitment," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 73(3), pages 431-458, 09.
    42. Gerlach, Knut & Stephan, Gesine, 1996. "A paper on unhappiness and unemployment in Germany," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 325-330, September.
    43. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2004. "Money, Sex and Happiness: An Empirical Study," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 393-415, October.
    44. Easterlin, Richard A., 2006. "Life cycle happiness and its sources: Intersections of psychology, economics, and demography," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 463-482, August.
    45. Peggy Schyns, 2001. "Income and Satisfaction in Russia," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 173-204, June.
    46. Senik, Claudia, 2004. "When information dominates comparison: Learning from Russian subjective panel data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2099-2123, August.
    47. Andrew E. Clark & Orsolya Lelkes, 2005. "Deliver us from evil: religion as insurance," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590570, HAL.
    48. Carol Graham & Andrew Felton, 2006. "Inequality and happiness: Insights from Latin America," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 107-122, April.
    49. Kenneth Smith, 2003. "Individual Welfare in the Soviet Union," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 64(1), pages 75-105, October.
    50. Eirini Flouri, 2004. "Subjective Well-Being in Midlife: The Role of Involvement of and Closeness to Parents in Childhood," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 5(4), pages 335-358, December.
    51. Welsch, Heinz, 2006. "Environment and happiness: Valuation of air pollution using life satisfaction data," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(4), pages 801-813, July.
    52. Carol Graham & Stefano Pettinato, 2001. "Happiness, Markets, and Democracy: Latin America in Comparative Perspective," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 2(3), pages 237-268, September.
    53. Korpi, Tomas, 1997. "Is utility related to employment status? Employment, unemployment, labor market policies and subjective well-being among Swedish youth," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 125-147, June.
    54. Graham, Carol & Eggers, Andrew & Sukhtankar, Sandip, 2004. "Does happiness pay?: An exploration based on panel data from Russia," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 319-342, November.
    55. 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.
    56. Theodossiou, I., 1998. "The effects of low-pay and unemployment on psychological well-being: A logistic regression approach," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 85-104, January.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:29:y:2008:i:1:p:94-122. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.