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Longitudinal Evidence for a Midlife Nadir in Human Well-being: Results from Four Data Sets

  • Cheng, Terence C.

    (University of Melbourne)

  • Powdthavee, Nattavudh

    (London School of Economics)

  • Oswald, Andrew J.

    (University of Warwick and CAGE)

There is a large amount of cross-sectional evidence for a midlife low in the life cycle of human happiness and well-being (a ‘U shape’). Yet no genuinely longitudinal inquiry has uncovered evidence for a U-shaped pattern. Thus some researchers believe the U is a statistical artefact. We re-examine this fundamental cross-disciplinary question. We suggest a new test. Drawing on four data sets, and only within-person changes in well-being, we document powerful support for a U-shape in unadjusted longitudinal data without the need for regression equations. The paper’s methodological contribution is to exploit the first-derivative

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Paper provided by Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE) in its series CAGE Online Working Paper Series with number 187.

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Date of creation: 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:187
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  1. López Ulloa, Beatriz Fabiola & Møller, Valerie & Sousa-Poza, Alfonso, 2013. "How does subjective well-being evolve with age? A literature review," FZID Discussion Papers 72-2013, University of Hohenheim, Center for Research on Innovation and Services (FZID).
  2. Frijters, Paul & Beatton, Tony, 2012. "The mystery of the U-shaped relationship between happiness and age," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 525-542.
  3. Kassenboehmer, Sonja C. & Haisken-DeNew, John P., 2012. "Heresy or enlightenment? The well-being age U-shape effect is flat," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 117(1), pages 235-238.
  4. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew Oswald, 2007. "Is Well-being U-Shaped over the Life Cycle?," NBER Working Papers 12935, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Andrew J. Oswald & Stephen Wu, 2011. "Well-Being across America," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 1118-1134, November.
  6. Van Landeghem, Bert, 2012. "A test for the convexity of human well-being over the life cycle: Longitudinal evidence from a 20-year panel," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 571-582.
  7. Easterlin, Richard A., 2006. "Life cycle happiness and its sources: Intersections of psychology, economics, and demography," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 463-482, August.
  8. Andrew E. Clark & Andrew J. Oswald, 2006. "The curved relationship between subjective well-being and age," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590404, HAL.
  9. Alison L. Booth & Jan C. van Ours, 2007. "Job Satisfaction and Family Happiness: The Part-time Work Puzzle," Department of Economics - Working Papers Series 1000, The University of Melbourne.
  10. 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).
  11. Daniel J. Benjamin & Ori Heffetz & Miles S. Kimball & Alex Rees-Jones, 2012. "What Do You Think Would Make You Happier? What Do You Think You Would Choose?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(5), pages 2083-2110, August.
  12. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J. & Warr, Peter B., 1994. "Is job satisfaction u-shaped in age ?," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9407, CEPREMAP.
  13. Christoph Wunder & Andrea Wiencierz & Johannes Schwarze & Helmut Küchenhoff, 2013. "Well-Being over the Life Span: Semiparametric Evidence from British and German Longitudinal Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 154-167, March.
  14. de Ree, Joppe & Alessie, Rob, 2011. "Life satisfaction and age: Dealing with underidentification in age-period-cohort models," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 177-182, July.
  15. Glenn, Norval, 2009. "Is the apparent U-shape of well-being over the life course a result of inappropriate use of control variables? A commentary on Blanchflower and Oswald (66: 8, 2008, 1733-1749)," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 69(4), pages 481-485, August.
  16. Weiss, Alexander & King, James E. & Inoue-Murayama, Miho & Matsuzawa, Tetsuro & Oswald, Andrew J., 2012. "Evidence for a ‘Midlife Crisis’ in Great Apes Consistent with the U-Shape in Human Well-Being," IZA Discussion Papers 7009, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  17. repec:pri:cheawb:stone_schwartz_broderick_deaton_snapshot_of_the_age_distribution_of_psych is not listed on IDEAS
  18. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  19. Brendan Baird & Richard Lucas & M. Donnellan, 2010. "Life Satisfaction Across the Lifespan: Findings from Two Nationally Representative Panel Studies," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 99(2), pages 183-203, November.
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