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Genes, Economics, and Happiness

  • Jan-Emmanuel De Neve
  • Nicholas A. Christakis
  • James H. Fowler
  • Bruno S. Frey

We explore the influence of genetic variation on subjective well-being by employing a twin design and genetic association study. In a nationally-representative twin sample, we first show that about 33% of the variation in life satisfaction is explained by genetic variation. Although previous studies have shown that baseline happiness is significantly heritable, little research has considered molecular genetic associations with subjective well-being. We study the relationship between a functional polymorphism on the serotonin transporter gene (5-HTTLPR) and life satisfaction. We initially find that individuals with the longer, transcriptionally more efficient variant of this genotype report greater life satisfaction (n=2,545, p=0.012). However, our replication attempts on independent samples produce mixed results indicating that more work needs to be done to better understand the relationship between this genotype and subjective well-being. This work has implications for how economists think about the determinants of utility, and the extent to which exogenous shocks might affect individual well-being.

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File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/portal/page/portal/DocBase_Content/WP/WP-CESifo_Working_Papers/wp-cesifo-2010/wp-cesifo-2010-02/cesifo1_wp2946.pdf
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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 2946.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2946
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  1. Allcott, Hunt & Karlan, Dean & Mobius, Markus & Rosenblat, Tanya & Szeidl, Adam, 2010. "Community Size and Network Closure," Staff General Research Papers 32110, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
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  7. von Hinke Kessler Scholder S, 2009. "Genetic Markers as Instrumental Variables: An Application to Child Fat Mass and Academic Achievement," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 09/25, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
  8. Oswald, Andrew J. & Wu, Stephen, 2010. "Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-being: Evidence from the USA," IZA Discussion Papers 4695, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  9. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2002. "How important is Methodology for the Estimates of the Determinants of Happiness?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 02-024/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  10. Jonathan P. Beauchamp & David Cesarini & Magnus Johannesson & Matthijs J. H. M. van der Loos & Philipp D. Koellinger & Patrick J. F. Groenen & James H. Fowler & J. Niels Rosenquist & A. Roy Thurik & N, 2011. "Molecular Genetics and Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(4), pages 57-82, Fall.
  11. Fletcher, Jason M. & Lehrer, Steven F., 2011. "Genetic lotteries within families," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 647-659, July.
  12. Fryer, Roland & Echenique, Federico, 2007. "A Measure of Segregation Based on Social Interactions," Scholarly Articles 2958220, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  13. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," CESifo Working Paper Series 2394, CESifo Group Munich.
  14. David Cesarini & Christopher T. Dawes & Magnus Johannesson & Paul Lichtenstein & Björn Wallace, 2009. "Genetic Variation in Preferences for Giving and Risk Taking," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(2), pages 809-842, May.
  15. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
  16. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Preferences over inflation and unemployment: Evidence from surveys of happiness," ZEI Working Papers B 03-2001, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn.
  17. Bruno S. Frey, 2008. "Happiness: A Revolution in Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262062771, June.
  18. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur A. Stone, 2006. "Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer? A Focusing Illusion," Working Papers 77, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
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