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

Happiness Inequality in the United States

  • Betsey Stevenson
  • Justin Wolfers

This paper examines how the level and dispersion of self-reported happiness has evolved over the period 1972-2006. While there has been no increase in aggregate happiness, inequality in happiness has fallen substantially since the 1970s. There have been large changes in the level of happiness across groups: two-thirds of the black-white happiness gap has been eroded, and the gender happiness gap has disappeared entirely. Paralleling changes in the income distribution, differences in happiness by education have widened substantially. We develop an integrated approach to measuring inequality and decomposing changes in the distribution of happiness, finding a pervasive decline in within-group inequality during the 1970s and 1980s that was experienced by even narrowly defined demographic groups. Around one-third of this decline has subsequently been unwound. Juxtaposing these changes with large increases in income inequality suggests an important role for nonpecuniary factors in shaping the well-being distribution. (c) 2008 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved..

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.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/592004
File Function: link to full text
Download Restriction: Access to the online full text or PDF requires a subscription.

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

Volume (Year): 37 (2008)
Issue (Month): S2 (06)
Pages: S33-S79

as
in new window

Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:37:y:2008:i:s2:p:s33-s79
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLS/

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. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2009. "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness," IZA Discussion Papers 4200, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Richard Easterlin, 2005. "Diminishing Marginal Utility of Income? Caveat Emptor," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 70(3), pages 243-255, 02.
  3. Richard Easterlin, 2005. "Feeding the Illusion of Growth and Happiness: A Reply to Hagerty and Veenhoven," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 74(3), pages 429-443, December.
  4. Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Is Business Cycle Volatility Costly? Evidence from Surveys of Subjective Well-Being," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(1), pages 1-26, Spring.
  5. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2001. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," CESifo Working Paper Series 503, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. 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.
  7. Clark, Andrew E. & Frijters, Paul & Shields, Michael A., 2007. "Relative Income, Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," IZA Discussion Papers 2840, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Adam Isen & Betsey Stevenson, 2010. "Women's Education and Family Behavior: Trends in Marriage, Divorce and Fertility," NBER Chapters, in: Demography and the Economy, pages 107-140 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Thomas Lemieux, 2006. "Increasing Residual Wage Inequality: Composition Effects, Noisy Data, or Rising Demand for Skill?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 461-498, June.
  10. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert & Oswald, Andrew J., 1999. "The macroeconomics of happiness," ZEI Working Papers B 03-1999, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn.
  11. Orazio Attanasio & Erich Battistin & Hidehiko Ichimura, 2004. "What Really Happened to Consumption Inequality in the US?," NBER Working Papers 10338, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1994. "The Growth of Earnings Instability in the U.S. Labor Market," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 25(2), pages 217-272.
  13. Deaton, Angus & Paxson, Christina, 1994. "Intertemporal Choice and Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(3), pages 437-67, June.
  14. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  15. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2007. "Marriage and Divorce: Changes and their Driving Forces," IZA Discussion Papers 2602, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. Shane T. Jensen & Stephen H. Shore, 2008. "Changes in the Distribution of Income Volatility," Papers 0808.1090, arXiv.org.
  17. Oswald, Andrew J, 2008. "On the Curvature of the Reporting Function from Objective Reality to Subjective Feelings," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 839, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  18. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2007. "Long-Run Changes in the Wage Structure: Narrowing, Widening, Polarizing," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 38(2), pages 135-168.
  19. Thomas Lemieux, 2002. "Decomposing changes in wage distributions: a unified approach," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(4), pages 646-688, November.
  20. N. Gregory Mankiw & Ricardo Reis & Justin Wolfers, 2003. "Disagreement about Inflation Expectations," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2011, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  21. Layard, Richard, 1980. "Human Satisfactions and Public Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(363), pages 737-50, December.
  22. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
  23. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
  24. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2008. "Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality: Revising the Revisionists," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 300-323, May.
  25. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2006. "Measuring trends in leisure: the allocation of time over five decades," Working Papers 06-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  26. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2008. "The Increase in Leisure Inequality," NBER Working Papers 13837, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  27. Dirk Krueger & Fabrizio Perri, 2006. "Does Income Inequality Lead to Consumption Inequality? Evidence and Theory -super-1," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 73(1), pages 163-193.
  28. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 2007. "Long-Run Changes in the U.S. Wage Structure: Narrowing, Widening, Polarizing," NBER Working Papers 13568, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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:ucp:jlstud:v:37:y:2008:i:s2:p:s33-s79. 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: (Journals Division)

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.