Happiness, Unhappiness, and Suicide: An Empirical Assessment
The use of subjective well-being (SWB) data for investigating the nature of individual preferences has increased tremendously in recent years. There has been much debate about the cross-sectional and time series patterns found in these data, particularly with respect to the relationship between SWB and relative status. Part of this debate concerns how well SWB data measure true utility or preferences. In a recent paper, Daly, Wilson, and Johnson (2008) propose using data on suicide as a revealed preference (outcome-based) measure of well-being and find strong evidence that reference-group income negatively affects suicide risk. In this paper, we compare and contrast the empirical patterns of SWB and suicide data. Despite no obvious aggregate relationship between the two series-either time series or cross-sectional-we find a strikingly strong and consistent relationship in the determinants of SWB and suicide in individual-level, multivariate regressions. This latter result cross-validates suicide and SWB micro data as useful and complementary indicators of latent utility. (JEL: I31, D6, H0, J0) (c) 2009 by the European Economic Association.
Volume (Year): 7 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2-3 (04-05)
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