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Does a Rising Tide Lift All the Boats? Explaining the National Inequality of Happiness


  • Tomi Ovaska
  • Ryo Takashima


Many recent studies in economics have uncovered the economic and socio-economic factors that are most related to differences among nations in citizens' self-reported levels of well-being (SWB). However, these cross-country studies have generally not taken into account the fact that around the SWB national average, a considerable spread of scores exists within nations. In an extreme case, a country may be in the midst of a major social upheaval, with a large group of dispossessed and disadvantaged individuals, yet this fact is completely hidden by the arithmetical average. Using cross-country data with diverse economic and socio-economic characteristics and the latest available dataset on well-being, we uncover the factors that appear to be the most highly correlated with the inequality of well-being within nations. We find the inequalities in individual incomes and quality of health, and the level of institutional qualities to be most important in explaining the inequalities of well-being.

Suggested Citation

  • Tomi Ovaska & Ryo Takashima, 2010. "Does a Rising Tide Lift All the Boats? Explaining the National Inequality of Happiness," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(1), pages 205-224.
  • Handle: RePEc:mes:jeciss:v:44:y:2010:i:1:p:205-224
    DOI: 10.2753/JEI0021-3624440110

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    Cited by:

    1. Leonardo Becchetti & Riccardo Massari & Paolo Naticchioni, 2014. "The drivers of happiness inequality: suggestions for promoting social cohesion," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(2), pages 419-442.
    2. Andrew E. Clark & Sarah Flèche & Claudia Senik, 2012. "The Great Happiness Moderation," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 468, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    3. repec:eee:ecmode:v:66:y:2017:i:c:p:272-278 is not listed on IDEAS

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