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The happiness puzzle: analytical aspects of the Easterlin paradox

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  • M. Ali Choudhary
  • Paul Levine
  • Peter McAdam
  • Peter Welz

Abstract

We apply an optimizing model with relative comparisons (habit formation) in consumption and labour supply to the economics of happiness, specifically the 'Easterlin paradox'. Studying a generalization of the paradox, which we label the 'happiness puzzle', we analyse ways in which income growth affects happiness. In our model, those factors include agents' risk aversion; whether the economy experiences balanced or unbalanced growth; how non-pecuniary factors affect well-being; and the degree of market imperfections. We also demonstrate that the dynamic specification of habit formation rather than its mere existence matters for whether the happiness puzzle arises on a balanced growth path. Only when habit is modelled in ratio form, does this possibility open up. Our model thus bridges the gap between theory, empirics and social policy. It provides a basis for studying a number of specific policy issues, such as corrective taxes. Copyright 2012 Oxford University Press 2011 All rights reserved, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • M. Ali Choudhary & Paul Levine & Peter McAdam & Peter Welz, 2012. "The happiness puzzle: analytical aspects of the Easterlin paradox," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(1), pages 27-42, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:oxecpp:v:64:y:2012:i:1:p:27-42
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    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/oep/gpr006
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    1. repec:eee:eecrev:v:95:y:2017:i:c:p:142-167 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Havranek, Tomas & Rusnak, Marek & Sokolova, Anna, 2017. "Habit formation in consumption: A meta-analysis," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 95(C), pages 142-167.
    3. Inge van den Bijgaart, 2018. "Too Slow a Change? Deep Habits, Consumption Shifts and Transitory Tax Policy," CESifo Working Paper Series 6958, CESifo Group Munich.
    4. Paul Levine & Joseph Pearlman & George Perendia & Bo Yang, 2012. "Endogenous Persistence in an estimated DSGE Model Under Imperfect Information," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(565), pages 1287-1312, December.
    5. Sequeira, Tiago & Minas, Tiago & Ferreira-Lopes, Alexandra, 2014. "Do Large Governments Decrease Happiness?," MPRA Paper 54418, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    6. Jacopo Baggio & Elissaios Papyrakis, 2014. "Agent-Based Simulations of Subjective Well-Being," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 115(2), pages 623-635, January.
    7. Gabriel Fagan & Vitor Gaspar & Peter McAdam, 2016. "Immanuel Kant and Endogenous Growth Theory," Scottish Journal of Political Economy, Scottish Economic Society, vol. 63(5), pages 427-442, November.
    8. van den Bijgaart, Inge, 2016. "Essays in environmental economics and policy," Other publications TiSEM 298bee2a-cb08-4173-9fe1-8, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
    9. Cristiano Cantore & Vasco J. Gabriel & Paul Levine & Joseph Pearlman & Bo Yang, 2013. "The science and art of DSGE modelling: II – model comparisons, model validation, policy analysis and general discussion," Chapters,in: Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Empirical Macroeconomics, chapter 19, pages 441-463 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    10. van den Bijgaart, I.M., 2017. "Too slow a change? Deep habits, consumption shifts and transitory tax," Working Papers in Economics 701, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    11. Cristiano Cantore & Vasco J. Gabriel & Paul Levine & Joseph Pearlman & Bo Yang, 2013. "The science and art of DSGE modelling: I – construction and Bayesian estimation," Chapters,in: Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Empirical Macroeconomics, chapter 18, pages 411-440 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    12. Eaton, B. Curtis & Matheson, Jesse A., 2013. "Resource allocation, affluence and deadweight loss when relative consumption matters," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 159-178.
    13. Tapas Mishra & Mamata Parhi & Raúl Fuentes, 2015. "How Interdependent are Cross-Country Happiness Dynamics?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 122(2), pages 491-518, June.

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