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Multidimensionality of Longitudinal Data: Unlocking the Age-Happiness Puzzle

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  • Ning Li

    (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research)

Abstract

In social and economic analysis of longitudinal data, the socio-economic variables that are statistically significant in pooled data regressions sometimes become insignificant after individual fixed effects are controlled for. This phenomenon has been observed in the analysis of the relationship between age and happiness. The discrepancy in results between regressions with and without controlling for individual fixed effects is sometimes known as a mystery in the research of age and happiness. This paper points out that cross-sectional information and longitudinal information reflect distinct aspects of the phenomenon under study. In age-happiness studies, cross-sectional information describes whether, in a particular year, people of a certain age are happier than people of other ages. Longitudinal information describes whether people become happier or less happy over the life cycle. The former compares happiness between different people, and the later compares happiness within the same person. Average happiness is U-shaped in age among different cohorts, and simultaneously decreases with age in the life cycle within individuals. Using data on happiness from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, this paper explains what “individual fixed effects are controlled for” means in the context of FE regression, gives insight into the age-happiness puzzle and raises awareness of the multidimensionality of longitudinal data.

Suggested Citation

  • Ning Li, 2014. "Multidimensionality of Longitudinal Data: Unlocking the Age-Happiness Puzzle," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2014n04, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  • Handle: RePEc:iae:iaewps:wp2014n04
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    File URL: http://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/downloads/working_paper_series/wp2014n04.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Wencke Gwozdz & Alfonso Sousa-Poza, 2010. "Ageing, Health and Life Satisfaction of the Oldest Old: An Analysis for Germany," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 97(3), pages 397-417, July.
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    3. Terence C. Cheng & Nattavudh Powdthavee & Andrew J. Oswald, 2017. "Longitudinal Evidence for a Midlife Nadir in Human Well‐being: Results from Four Data Sets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(599), pages 126-142, February.
    4. Frijters, Paul & Beatton, Tony, 2012. "The mystery of the U-shaped relationship between happiness and age," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 525-542.
    5. Heather Lacey & Todd Kierstead & Diana Morey, 2012. "De-Biasing the Age-Happiness Bias: Memory Search and Cultural Expectations in Happiness Judgments Across the Lifespan," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 647-658, August.
    6. Bert G.M. Van Landeghem, 2008. "Human Well-Being over the Life Cycle: Longitudinal Evidence from a 20-Year Panel," LICOS Discussion Papers 21308, LICOS - Centre for Institutions and Economic Performance, KU Leuven.
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    10. Robert Cummins & Ning Li & Mark Wooden & Mark Stokes, 2014. "A Demonstration of Set-Points for Subjective Wellbeing," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 183-206, February.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Life satisfaction; cohort; ageing; OLS; individual fixed effects; between-person variation; within-person variation; HILDA;

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • C10 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - General
    • C80 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - General

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