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Happiness as a Driver of Risk-Avoiding Behavior

  • Robert J. B. Goudie
  • Sach Mukherjee
  • Jan-Emmanuel De Neve
  • Andrew J. Oswald
  • Stephen Wu

Understanding the reasons why individuals take risks, particularly unnecessary risks, remains an important question in economics. We provide the first evidence of a powerful connection between happiness and risk-avoidance. Using data on 300,000 Americans, we demonstrate that happier individuals wear seatbelts more frequently. This result is obtained with five different methodological approaches, including Bayesian model-selection and an instrumented analysis based on unhappiness through widowhood. Independent longitudinal data corroborate the finding, showing that happiness is predictive of future motor vehicle accidents. Our results are consistent with a rational-choice explanation: happy people value life and thus act to preserve it.

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Paper provided by CESifo Group Munich in its series CESifo Working Paper Series with number 3451.

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Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3451
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  1. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Happiness Inequality in the United States," NBER Working Papers 14220, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  4. Dohmen Thomas & Falk Armin & Huffman David & Sunde Uwe & Schupp Jürgen & Wagner Gert, 2009. "Individual Risk Attitudes: Measurement, Determinants and Behavioral Consequences," ROA Research Memorandum 007, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
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  9. Pischke, Jörn-Steffen, 2011. "Money and Happiness: Evidence from the Industry Wage Structure," IZA Discussion Papers 5705, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Richard E. Lucas & Andrew Clark & Yannis Georgellis & Ed Diener, 2002. "Re-Examining Adaptation and the Setpoint Model of Happiness: Reactions to Changes in Marital Status," DELTA Working Papers 2002-08, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  11. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2007. "Is Well-Being U-Shaped over the Life Cycle?," IZA Discussion Papers 3075, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Daniel J. Benjamin & Ori Heffetz & Miles S. Kimball & Alex Rees-Jones, 2010. "Do People Seek to Maximize Happiness? Evidence from New Surveys," NBER Working Papers 16489, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2007. "Hypertension and Happiness across Nations," NBER Working Papers 12934, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Paul Dolan & Daniel Kahneman, 2008. "Interpretations Of Utility And Their Implications For The Valuation Of Health," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(525), pages 215-234, 01.
  15. M. Pittau & Roberto Zelli & Andrew Gelman, 2010. "Economic Disparities and Life Satisfaction in European Regions," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 96(2), pages 339-361, April.
  16. Richard H. Thaler & Eric J. Johnson, 1990. "Gambling with the House Money and Trying to Break Even: The Effects of Prior Outcomes on Risky Choice," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 36(6), pages 643-660, June.
  17. Barsky, Robert B, et al, 1997. "Preference Parameters and Behavioral Heterogeneity: An Experimental Approach in the Health and Retirement Study," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 537-79, May.
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  26. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521852258 is not listed on IDEAS
  27. 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).
  28. Fliessbach, Klaus & Weber, Bernd & Trautner, P. & Dohmen, Thomas J. & Sunde, Uwe & Elger, C. E. & Falk, Armin, 2007. "Social comparison affects reward-related brain activity in the human ventral striatum," Munich Reprints in Economics 20362, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  29. Offer, Avner, 2007. "The Challenge of Affluence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199216628.
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