IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Formal Institutions and Subjective Well-Being: Revisiting the Cross-Country Evidence

  • Bjørnskov, Christian


    (Dept. of Economics, Aarhus School of Business, University of Aarhus)

  • Dreher, Axel


    (ETH Zurich, KOF Swiss Economic Institute)

  • Fischer, Justina AV


    (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics)

A long tradition in economics explores the association between the quality of formal institutions and economic performance. The literature on the relationship between such institutions and happiness is, however, rather limited. In this paper, we revisit the findings from recent cross-country studies on the institutions-happiness association. Our findings suggest that the conclusions reached by previous studies are fairly sensitive to the specific measure of ‘happiness’ used. In addition, the results indicate that the welfare effects of policies may differ across phases of a country’s economic development. This bears important policy implications which we discuss in the concluding section of the paper.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Stockholm School of Economics in its series SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance with number 699.

in new window

Length: 38 pages
Date of creation: 02 Apr 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:hastef:0699
Contact details of provider: Postal: The Economic Research Institute, Stockholm School of Economics, P.O. Box 6501, 113 83 Stockholm, Sweden
Phone: +46-(0)8-736 90 00
Fax: +46-(0)8-31 01 57
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Pierre-Guillaume Méon & Khalid Sekkat, 2006. "Institutional quality and trade: which institutions? Which trade?," DULBEA Working Papers 06-06.RS, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  2. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Christian Bjørnskov & Axel Dreher & Justina Fischer, 2007. "The bigger the better? Evidence of the effect of government size on life satisfaction around the world," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 130(3), pages 267-292, March.
  4. Fischer, Justina AV, 2009. "Subjective Well-Being as Welfare Measure: Concepts and Methodology," MPRA Paper 16619, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Aidt, T.S. & Gassebner, M., 2007. "Do Autocratic States Trade Less?," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0742, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  6. Berggren, Niclas, 2003. "The Benefits of Economic Freedom: A Survey," Ratio Working Papers 4, The Ratio Institute.
  7. Ovaska, Tomi & Takashima, Ryo, 2006. "Economic policy and the level of self-perceived well-being: An international comparison," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 308-325, April.
  8. 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.
  9. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1997. "A Case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1848-58, November.
  10. Richard Layard, 2006. "Happiness and Public Policy: a Challenge to the Profession," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages C24-C33, 03.
  11. Frey, Bruno S. & Stutzer, Alois, 2002. "Beyond Outcomes: Measuring Procedural Utility," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt7qp9q1js, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  12. John F. Helliwell, 2002. "How's Life? Combining Individual and National Variables to Explain Subjective Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 9065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. W. J. Henisz, 2000. "The Institutional Environment for Economic Growth," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 12(1), pages 1-31, 03.
  14. Gassebner, Martin & Keck, Alexander & Teh, Robert, 2006. "The impact of disasters on international trade," WTO Staff Working Papers ERSD-2006-04, World Trade Organization (WTO), Economic Research and Statistics Division.
  15. Edward L. Glaeser & Andrei Shleifer, 2001. "Legal Origins," NBER Working Papers 8272, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Witold J. Henisz, 2002. "The institutional environment for infrastructure investment," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(2), pages 355-389.
  17. 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.
  18. Bjornskov, Christian, 2006. "The multiple facets of social capital," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 22(1), pages 22-40, March.
  19. Peggy Schyns, 1998. "Crossnational Differences in Happiness: Economic and Cultural Factors Explored," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 3-26, February.
  20. Lawrence Blume & Jens Müller & Stefan Voigt, 2007. "The Economic Effects of Direct Democracy – A First Global Assessment," CESifo Working Paper Series 2149, CESifo Group Munich.
  21. Bjørnskov, Christian & Dreher, Axel & Fischer, Justina AV, 2008. "Formal Institutions and Subjective Well-Being: Revisiting the Cross-Country Evidence," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 699, Stockholm School of Economics.
  22. Thomas König, 2001. "Bicameralism and Party Politics in Germany: an Empirical Social Choice Analysis," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 49(3), pages 411-437, 08.
  23. Jakob De Haan & Susanna Lundström & Jan-Egbert Sturm, 2006. "Market-oriented institutions and policies and economic growth: A critical survey," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 20(2), pages 157-191, 04.
  24. Martin Gassebner & Alexander Keck & Robert Teh, 2006. "Shaken, not stirred: the impact of disasters on international trade," KOF Working papers 06-139, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  25. Stephen Knack & Philip Keefer, 1995. "Institutions And Economic Performance: Cross-Country Tests Using Alternative Institutional Measures," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 7(3), pages 207-227, November.
  26. Christian Bjørnskov & Axel Dreher & Justina A.V. Fischer, 2006. "Cross-Country Determinants of Life Satisfaction: Exploring Different Determinants across Groups in Society," KOF Working papers 06-145, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  27. David Dorn & Justina Fischer & Gebhard Kirchgässner & Alfonso Sousa-Poza, 2008. "Direct democracy and life satisfaction revisited: new evidence for Switzerland," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 227-255, June.
  28. John F. Helliwell & Haifang Huang, 2006. "How's Your Government? International Evidence Linking Good Government and Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 11988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  29. Richard Feinberg, 2006. "Presidential mandates and ministerial institutions: Summitry of the Americas, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 69-94, March.
  30. Bjørnskov, Christian & Drehe, Axel & Fischer, Justina A.V., 2008. "On decentralization and life satisfaction," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 147-151, April.
  31. Zak, Paul J & Knack, Stephen, 2001. "Trust and Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(470), pages 295-321, April.
  32. Fischer, Justina AV, 2008. "Competition and well-being: does market competition make people unhappy?," SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 697, Stockholm School of Economics.
  33. 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.
  34. 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.
  35. David Dorn & Justina Fischer & Gebhard Kirchgässner & Alfonso Sousa-Poza, 2007. "Is It Culture or Democracy? The Impact of Democracy and Culture on Happiness," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 82(3), pages 505-526, July.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:hhs:hastef:0699. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Helena Lundin)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.