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You Don't Know What You've Got till It's Gone!: Unemployment and Intertemporal Changes in Self-Reported Life Satisfaction

  • Marcus Klemm

This paper uses concurrently and - for the first time - retrospectively reported life satisfaction from the 1984 to 1987 waves of the German Socio-Economic Panel to study the importance of different comparison standards for the empirical correlation of unemployment and subjective life satisfaction. It is found that unemployed individuals do not only report significantly lower concurrent satisfaction, but also recall reduced satisfaction from past unemployment well, and retrospectively upgrade their past satisfaction scores. Therefore, the short-term negative effects of unemployment on individual life satisfaction reported in the literature so far are likely underestimated. At the same time, the empirical findings cast doubts on the usefulness of subjective life satisfaction for the precise quantification of welfare effects because of changing comparison standards which greatly limit the intertemporal comparability of the data. For this reason, such data also appear to be of limited use for monitoring long-term economic or social development.

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File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.390637.de/diw_sp0421.pdf
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Paper provided by DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) in its series SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research with number 421.

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Length: 30 p.
Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp421
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  1. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2001. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," CESifo Working Paper Series 503, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. John P. Haisken-DeNew & Markus H. Hahn, 2010. "PanelWhiz: Efficient Data Extraction of Complex Panel Data Sets - An Example Using the German SOEP," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 130(4), pages 643-654.
  3. Andrew Clark & Andreas Knabe & Steffen Rätzel, 2009. "Unemployment as a Social Norm in Germany," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 129(2), pages 251-260.
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  6. Andrew E. Clark & Ed Diener & Yannis Georgellis & Richard E. Lucas, 2007. "Lags and Leads in Life Satisfaction: A Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," CEP Discussion Papers dp0836, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
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  9. John Gibson & Bonggeun Kim, 2009. "Non-Classical Measurement Error in Long-Term Retrospective Recall Surveys," CIRJE F-Series CIRJE-F-658, CIRJE, Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo.
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  11. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
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  14. repec:got:cegedp:116 is not listed on IDEAS
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  16. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1985. "Unemployment through the Filter of Memory," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 100(3), pages 747-73, August.
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  18. Baetschmann, Gregori & Staub, Kevin E. & Winkelmann, Rainer, 2011. "Consistent Estimation of the Fixed Effects Ordered Logit Model," IZA Discussion Papers 5443, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. Gert G. Wagner & Joachim R. Frick & Jürgen Schupp, 2007. "The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP): Scope, Evolution and Enhancements," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 1, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  20. André Vanoli, 2010. "On the Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (2009)," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 162, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
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  22. Anna Manzoni & Ruud Luijkx & Ruud Muffels, 2011. "Explaining differences in labour market transitions between panel and life-course data in West-Germany," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 45(2), pages 241-261, February.
  23. Dolan, Paul & Peasgood, Tessa & White, Mathew, 2008. "Do we really know what makes us happy A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 94-122, February.
  24. Abigail Barr, 2010. "Revisiting Michael McBride’s experiment about “Money, happiness, and aspirations”," Discussion Papers 2010003, University of Oxford, Nuffield College.
  25. Paul Frijters & John P. Haisken-DeNew & Michael A. Shields, 2004. "Money Does Matter! Evidence from Increasing Real Income and Life Satisfaction in East Germany Following Reunification," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 730-740, June.
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