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The Macroeconomics of Happiness

  • Di Tella, R.
  • MacCulloch, R.J.: Oswald, A.J.

A large literature in macroeconomics assumes a social objective function, W(pi,U), where inflation, pi, and unemployment, U, are bads. This paper provides some of the first formal evidence for such an approach. It issues data on the reported well-being levels of approximately one quarter of a million sampled Europeans and Americans from the 1970's to the 1990's. After controlling for personal characteristics, year dummies and countries fixed effects, we find that the data trace out a W(pi,U) function. It is approximately a linearly additive "misery index". The paper calculates the implied dollar value of a low inflation rate. It also examines the struture of happiness equations across countries and time.

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Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics in its series Papers with number 19.

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Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: 1997
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fth:cepies:19
Contact details of provider: Postal: United Kingdom; Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics and Statistics, Oxford University. Manor Road. Oxford OX1 3Ul
Web page: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/
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  1. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
  2. Robert J. Shiller, 1996. "Why Do People Dislike Inflation?," NBER Working Papers 5539, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Fischer, Stanley, 1981. "Towards an understanding of the costs of inflation: II," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 5-41, January.
  4. Matthew Rabin, 1998. "Psychology and Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 11-46, March.
  5. Tito Boeri & Axel Börsch-Supan & Guido Tabellini, 2001. "Would you like to shrink the welfare state? A survey of European citizens," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(32), pages 7-50, 04.
  6. Konow, James & Earley, Joseph, 2007. "The Hedonistic Paradox: Is Homo Economicus Happier?," MPRA Paper 2728, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  7. Robert J. Barro & David B. Gordon, 1981. "A Positive Theory of Monetary Policy in a Natural-Rate Model," NBER Working Papers 0807, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Andrew Atkeson & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1994, Volume 9, pages 187-218 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Blanchflower, David G, 1991. "Fear, Unemployment and Pay Flexibility," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(406), pages 483-96, May.
  10. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R., 1996. "An Emprirical Study of Unemployment Benefit Preferences," Economics Series Working Papers 99179, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  11. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
  12. Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2001. "Group Loyalty and the Taste for Redistribution," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 109(3), pages 500-528, June.
  13. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2001. "The determination of unemployment benefits," ZEI Working Papers B 04-2001, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn.
  14. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  15. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2000. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," NBER Working Papers 7487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Oswald, Andrew, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 478, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  17. Frey, Bruno S & Schneider, Friedrich, 1978. "An Empirical Study of Politico-Economic Interaction in the United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(2), pages 174-83, May.
  18. Kahneman, Daniel & Thaler, Richard H, 1991. "Economic Analysis and the Psychology of Utility: Applications to Compensation Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 341-46, May.
  19. Moulton, Brent R., 1986. "Random group effects and the precision of regression estimates," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 385-397, August.
  20. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1997. "A Case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1848-58, November.
  21. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  22. Atkinson, Anthony B & Micklewright, John, 1991. "Unemployment Compensation and Labor Market Transitions: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 1679-1727, December.
  23. Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2005. "Partisan Social Happiness," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(2), pages 367-393.
  24. Alvarez, F. & Jermann, U.J., 2000. "Using Asset Prices to Measure the Cost of Business Cycles," Weiss Center Working Papers 00-1, Wharton School - Weiss Center for International Financial Research.
  25. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J. & Warr, Peter B., 1994. "Is job satisfaction u-shaped in age ?," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9407, CEPREMAP.
  26. Morawetz, David, 1977. "Income Distribution and Self-Rated Happiness: Some Empirical Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 87(347), pages 511-22, September.
  27. Lucas, Robert E., 1981. "Discussion of : Stanley Fischer, "towards an understanding of the costs of inflation: II"," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 43-52, January.
  28. Craig Fox & Daniel Kahneman, 1992. "Correlations, causes and heuristics in surveys of life satisfaction," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 221-234, November.
  29. Yew-Kwang Ng, 1996. "Happiness surveys: Some comparability issues and an exploratory survey based on just perceivable increments," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 1-27, May.
  30. Kahneman, Daniel & Wakker, Peter P & Sarin, Rakesh, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-405, May.
  31. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
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