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Genes, Economics, and Happiness

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

Research on happiness has produced valuable insights into the sources of subjective well-being that are of importance to economics. A major nding from this literature is that people exhibit a "baseline" level of happiness that shows persistent strength over time. Here we explore the extent to which baseline happiness is in uenced by genetic variation. Using data from Add Health, we employ a twin study design to show that ge- netic variation explains about 33% of the variation in happiness, and that the in uence of genes varies by gender (women 26%, men 39%) and tends to rise with age. We also present evidence that variation in a specific gene predicts happiness. Individuals with a transcriptionally more eficient version of the serotonin transporter gene (SLC6A4) are significantly more likely to report higher levels of life satisfaction|having one or two alleles of the more eficient type raises the average likelihood of being very satis ed with one's life by 8.5% and 17.3%, respectively. Finally, using data from an indepen- dent source (the Framingham Heart Study) we show that a linked single nucleotide polymorphism (rs2020933) in the SLC6A4 gene also predicts life satisfaction. These results are the rst to identify a specific gene that may be associated with baseline levels of happiness.

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Paper provided by Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA) in its series CREMA Working Paper Series with number 2010-24.

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Date of creation: Dec 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cra:wpaper:2010-24
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  1. Mobius, Markus & Szeidl, Adam & Karlan, Dean & Allcott, Hunt & Rosenblat, Tanya, 2007. "Community Size and Network Closure," Scholarly Articles 2962638, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  2. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1994. "Satisfaction and comparison income," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9408, CEPREMAP.
  3. Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder & George Davey Smith & Debbie A. Lawlor & Carol Propper & Frank Windmeijer, 2011. "Genetic Markers as Instrumental Variables," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 11/274, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  4. 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).
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  6. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 39(1 (Spring), pages 1-102.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. David, Cesarini & Dawes, Christopher T. & Johannesson, Magnus & Lichtenstein, Paul & Wallace, Björn, 2007. "Genetic Variation in Preferences for Giving and Risk-Taking," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 679, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 12 Jan 2009.
  10. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2004. "How Important is Methodology for the estimates of the determinants of Happiness?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 641-659, 07.
  11. Bruno S. Frey, 2008. "Happiness: A Revolution in Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262062771, June.
  12. Clark, Andrew E. & Frijters, Paul & Shields, Michael A., 2007. "Relative Income, Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," IZA Discussion Papers 2840, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. 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..
  14. 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.
  15. Fryer, Roland & Echenique, Federico, 2007. "A Measure of Segregation Based on Social Interactions," Scholarly Articles 2958220, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  16. Fletcher, Jason M. & Lehrer, Steven F., 2011. "Genetic lotteries within families," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 647-659, July.
  17. Federico Echenique & Roland G. Fryer Jr & Alex Kaufman, 2006. "Is School Segregation Good or Bad?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(2), pages 265-269, May.
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