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Unemployment Alters the Set-Point for Life Satisfaction

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Listed:
  • Richard E. Lucas
  • Andrew Clark
  • Yannis Georgellis
  • Ed Diener

Abstract

According to set-point theories of subjective well-being, people react to events but then return to baseline levels of happiness and satisfaction over time. We test this idea by examining reaction and adaptation to unemployment in a 15-year longitudinal study. In accordance with set-point theory, individuals reacted strongly to unemployment and then shifted back toward their baseline levels of life satisfaction. However, on average, individuals did not completely return to their former levels of satisfaction, even after they became re-employed. Furthermore, contrary to expectations from adaptation theories, people who had experienced unemployment in the past did not react any less negatively to a new bout of unemployment. These results suggest that although life satisfaction is moderately stable over time, life events can have a strong influence on long-term levels of subjective well-being.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard E. Lucas & Andrew Clark & Yannis Georgellis & Ed Diener, 2002. "Unemployment Alters the Set-Point for Life Satisfaction," DELTA Working Papers 2002-17, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  • Handle: RePEc:del:abcdef:2002-17
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