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Genes, Economics, and Happiness

Author

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

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & Nicholas A. Christakis & James H. Fowler & Bruno S. Frey, 2010. "Genes, Economics, and Happiness," CESifo Working Paper Series 2946, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_2946
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel & Fowler, James H., 2014. "Credit card borrowing and the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 107(PB), pages 428-439.
    2. Otrachshenko, Vladimir & Popova, Olga, 2014. "Life (dis)satisfaction and the intention to migrate: Evidence from Central and Eastern Europe," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 40-49.
    3. Richard Layard & Andrew E. Clark & Francesca Cornaglia & Nattavudh Powdthavee & James Vernoit, 2014. "What Predicts a Successful Life? A Life‐course Model of Well‐being," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(580), pages 720-738, November.
    4. Anna Matysiak & Letizia Mencarini & Daniele Vignoli, 2015. "Work-family Conflict Moderates the Impact of Childbearing on Subjective Well-Being," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 435, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
    5. Adrian Chadi, 2014. "Regional unemployment and norm-induced effects on life satisfaction," Empirical Economics, Springer, pages 1111-1141.
    6. Eugenio Proto & Andrew J. Oswald, 2017. "National Happiness and Genetic Distance: A Cautious Exploration," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(604), pages 2127-2152, September.
    7. Ehsan Latif, 2016. "Happiness and Comparison Income: Evidence from Canada," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 128(1), pages 161-177, August.
    8. Anna Matysiak & Letizia Mencarini & Daniele Vignoli, 2016. "Work–Family Conflict Moderates the Relationship Between Childbearing and Subjective Well-Being," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 32(3), pages 355-379, August.
    9. Morris, Eric A., 2015. "Should we all just stay home? Travel, out-of-home activities, and life satisfaction," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 78(C), pages 519-536.
    10. Hideyuki Mizobuchi, 2017. "Measuring Socio-economic Factors and Sensitivity of Happiness," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 463-504, April.
    11. De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel & Diener, Ed & Tay, Louis & Xuereb, Cody, 2013. "The objective benefits of subjective well-being," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 51669, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    12. Violeta Misheva, 2016. "What Determines Emotional Well-Being? The Role of Adverse Experiences: Evidence Using Twin Data," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(5), pages 1921-1937, October.
    13. Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & Ed Diener & Louis Tay & Cody Xuereb, 2013. "The Objective Benefits of Subjective Well-Being," CEP Discussion Papers dp1236, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    14. Hans-Peter Kohler & Letizia Mencarini, 2016. "The Parenthood Happiness Puzzle: An Introduction to Special Issue," European Journal of Population, Springer;European Association for Population Studies, vol. 32(3), pages 327-338, August.
    15. Vanessa Mertins & Andrea B. Schote & Jobst Meyer, 2013. "Variants of the Monoamine Oxidase A Gene (MAOA) Predict Free-riding Behavior in Women in a Strategic Public Goods Experiment," IAAEU Discussion Papers 201302, Institute of Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union (IAAEU).
    16. repec:spr:jhappi:v:18:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s10902-016-9774-5 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    life satisfaction; twin study; genetic association; serotonin transporter gene; 5-HTTLPR; rs2020933;

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • Z00 - Other Special Topics - - General - - - General

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