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Death, Happiness, and the Calculation of Compensatory Damages

  • Andrew J. Oswald
  • Nattavudh Powdthavee

This paper presents a study of the mental distress caused by bereavement. The greatest emotional losses are from the death of a spouse, the second greatest from the death of a child, and the third from the death of a parent. The paper explores how happiness regression equations might be used in tort cases to calculate compensatory damages for emotional harm and pain and suffering. We examine alternative well-being variables, discuss adaptation, consider the possibility that bereavement affects someone's marginal utility of income, and suggest a procedure for correcting for the endogeneity of income. Although the paper's contribution is methodological and further research is needed, some illustrative compensation amounts are discussed. (c) 2008 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved..

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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Legal Studies.

Volume (Year): 37 (2008)
Issue (Month): S2 (06)
Pages: S217-S251

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:37:y:2008:i:s2:p:s217-s251
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLS/

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  1. Menzel, Paul & Dolan, Paul & Richardson, Jeff & Olsen, Jan Abel, 2002. "The role of adaptation to disability and disease in health state valuation: a preliminary normative analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(12), pages 2149-2158, December.
  2. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Bernard M. S. van Praag, 2001. "The Subjective Costs of Health Losses Due to Chronic Diseases: An Alternative Model for Monetary Appraisal," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 262, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  3. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2003. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," NBER Working Papers 10175, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Oswald, Andrew J, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1815-31, November.
  5. Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2003. "Unhappiness and Crime : Evidence from South Africa," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 685, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  6. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  7. 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).
  8. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2007. "Are there Geographical Variations in the Psychological Cost of Unemployment in South Africa?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 80(3), pages 629-652, February.
  9. 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.
  10. Luis Rayo & Gary S. Becker, 2007. "Evolutionary Efficiency and Happiness," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 302-337.
  11. 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.
  12. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R.J.: Oswald, A.J., 1997. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," Papers 19, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  13. Cooter, Robert D., 2003. "Hand Rule Damages for Incompensable Losses," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt5rf3f1m2, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  14. 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.
  15. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2006. "Income and happiness: Evidence, explanations and economic implications," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590436, HAL.
  16. Sunstein, Cass R & Schkade, David A & Kahneman, Daniel, 2000. "Do People Want Optimal Deterrence?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 237-53, January.
  17. Shields, Michael A. & Wheatley Price, Stephen, 2001. "Exploring the Economic and Social Determinants of Psychological and Psychosocial Health," IZA Discussion Papers 396, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  18. van Praag, Bernard M. S. & Baarsma, Barbara E., 2004. "Using Happiness Surveys to Value Intangibles: The Case of Airport Noise," IZA Discussion Papers 1096, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. Jonathan Gardner & Andrew J. Oswald, 2006. "Do divorcing couples become happier by breaking up?," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 169(2), pages 319-336.
  20. Wim Groot & Henriļæ½tte Maassen van den Brink & Erik Plug, 2004. "Money for health: the equivalent variation of cardiovascular diseases," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(9), pages 859-872.
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