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Happiness and the Human Development Index: The Paradox of Australia

  • Blanchflower, David G.

    ()

    (Dartmouth College)

  • Oswald, Andrew J.

    ()

    (University of Warwick)

According to the well-being measure known as the U.N. Human Development Index, Australia now ranks 3rd in the world and higher than all other English-speaking nations. This paper questions that assessment. It reviews work on the economics of happiness, considers implications for policymakers, and explores where Australia lies in international subjective well-being rankings. Using new data on approximately 50,000 randomly sampled individuals from 35 nations, the paper shows that Australians have some of the lowest levels of job satisfaction in the world. Moreover, among the sub-sample of English-speaking nations, where a common language should help subjective measures to be reliable, Australia performs poorly on a range of happiness indicators. The paper discusses this paradox. Our purpose is not to reject HDI methods, but rather to argue that much remains to be understood in this area.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1601.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: May 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Australian Economic Review, 2005, 38 (3), 307-319
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1601
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  1. 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.
  2. Paul Frijters & John P. Haisken-DeNew & Michael A. Shields, 2004. "Investigating the Patterns and Determinants of Life Satisfaction in Germany Following Reunification," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(3).
  3. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  4. M. Evans & Jonathan Kelley, 2004. "Effect of family structure on life satisfaction: australian evidence," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 69(3), pages 303-349, December.
  5. Headey, Bruce & Wooden, Mark, 2004. "The Effects of Wealth and Income on Subjective Well-Being and Ill-Being," IZA Discussion Papers 1032, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. 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.
  7. Oswald, Andrew, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 478, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  8. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  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. Rafael Di Tella & Robert J. MacCulloch & Andrew J. Oswald, 2003. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 809-827, November.
  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. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels & Mark Wooden, 2004. "Money Doesn't Buy Happiness … or Does It? A Reconsideration Based on the Combined Effects of Wealth, Income and Consumption," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2004n15, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  15. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  16. Blanchflower, David G., 2001. "Unemployment, Well-Being, and Wage Curves in Eastern and Central Europe," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 364-402, December.
  17. Ruut Veenhoven, 1996. "Happy life-expectancy," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 39(1), pages 1-58, January.
  18. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 1999. "Partisan social happiness," ZEI Working Papers B 22-1999, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn.
  19. Mike Shields & Mark Wooden, 2003. "Investigating the Role of Neighbourhood Characteristics in Determining Life Satisfaction," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2003n24, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  20. 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.
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