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Does Happiness Adapt? A Longitudinal Study of Disability with Implications for Economists and Judges

  • Oswald, Andrew J.

    ()

    (University of Warwick)

  • Powdthavee, Nattavudh

    ()

    (London School of Economics)

Economics ignores the possibility of hedonic adaptation (the idea that people bounce back from utility shocks). This paper argues that economists are wrong to do so. It provides longitudinal evidence that individuals who become disabled go on to exhibit recovery in mental wellbeing. Adaptation to severe disability, however, is shown to be incomplete. The paper suggests ways to calculate the level of compensatory damages for the pain and suffering from disablement. Courts all over the world currently use ad hoc methods.

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File URL: http://ftp.iza.org/dp2208.pdf
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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2208.

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Length: 40 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Public Economics, 2008, 92 (5-6), 1061-1077
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2208
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  13. Wu, Stephen, 2001. "Adapting to heart conditions: a test of the hedonic treadmill," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 495-507, July.
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  19. Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 10667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  20. 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.
  21. Groot, Wim, 2000. "Adaptation and scale of reference bias in self-assessments of quality of life," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 403-420, May.
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  23. Wim Groot & Henriëtte Maassen van den Brink, 2000. "Life-Satisfaction and Preference Drift," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 50(3), pages 315-328, June.
  24. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  25. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Bernard M.S. van Praag, 2002. "The subjective costs of health losses due to chronic diseases. An alternative model for monetary appraisal," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 11(8), pages 709-722.
  26. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-84, July.
  27. Clark, Andrew E., 1999. "Are wages habit-forming? evidence from micro data," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 179-200, June.
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  29. Menzel, Paul & Dolan, Paul & Richardson, Jeff & Olsen, Jan Abel, 2002. "The role of adaptation to disability and disease in health state valuation: a preliminary normative analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(12), pages 2149-2158, December.
  30. Anke C. Zimmermann & Richard A. Easterlin, 2006. "Happily Ever After? Cohabitation, Marriage, Divorce, and Happiness in Germany," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 32(3), pages 511-528.
  31. Daniel Kahneman & Robert Sugden, 2005. "Experienced Utility as a Standard of Policy Evaluation," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 32(1), pages 161-181, 09.
  32. Ville, I. & Ravaud, J. -F. & Group, Tetrafigap, 2001. "Subjective well-being and severe motor impairments: the Tetrafigap survey on the long-term outcome of tetraplegic spinal cord injured persons," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 52(3), pages 369-384, February.
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  35. Easterlin, Richard A., 2005. "A puzzle for adaptive theory," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(4), pages 513-521, April.
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