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Can Happiness Provide New Insights into Social Inequality? Evidence from Japan

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  • Niimi, Yoko

Abstract

This paper examines recent trends and determinants of happiness inequality in Japan using unique data from the "Preference Parameters Study of Osaka University" that was conducted annually in Japan during the 2003-2013 period. The data illustrate that, despite some fluctuations, Japan observed a fall in happiness inequality along with income growth during this period. By estimating Recentered Influence Function regressions, we find a negative and significant relationship between income level and happiness inequality, as found for other countries. The results also show that people's perception of their relative standing in the income spectrum matters for the level as well as the dispersion of happiness. Other key determinants of happiness inequality include the insecurity of jobs, unemployment, the fear of becoming unemployed in the near future, having health concerns, feeling a sense of loneliness, and the expected coverage of living costs by public pensions after retirement, all of which have a positive effect on happiness inequality except that the public pension variable negatively affects the dispersion of happiness. Our empirical analysis illustrates that happiness inequality is a useful addition to the set of conventional inequality indicators to monitor and better understand social inequality and to formulate measures to tackle inequality-related issues.

Suggested Citation

  • Niimi, Yoko, 2015. "Can Happiness Provide New Insights into Social Inequality? Evidence from Japan," AGI Working Paper Series 2015-12, Asian Growth Research Institute.
  • Handle: RePEc:agi:wpaper:00000031
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Zheng Fang & Yoko Niimi, 2015. "Do Losses Bite More than Gains? Evidence from a Panel Quantile Regression Analysis of Subjective Well-being in Japan," Economic Growth Centre Working Paper Series 1507, Nanyang Technological University, School of Social Sciences, Economic Growth Centre.
    2. Yoko Niimi, 2016. "The “Costs” of informal care: an analysis of the impact of elderly care on caregivers’ subjective well-being in Japan," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 14(4), pages 779-810, December.
    3. Michal Brzezinski, 2017. "Diagnosing unhappiness dynamics: Evidence from Poland and Russia," Working Papers 2017-27, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Happiness; Inequality; SocialProtection; SubjectiveWell-being;

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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