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Economic Approaches to Understanding Change in Happiness

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  • Powdthavee, Nattavudh

    (University of Warwick)

  • Stutzer, Alois

    (University of Basel)

Abstract

Are people condemned to an inherent level of experienced happiness? A review of the economic research on subjective well-being gives reason to the assessment that happiness can change. First, empirical findings clearly indicate that people are not indifferent to adverse living conditions when reporting their subjective well-being as observed for limited freedom of choice, low levels of democratization, unemployment, low income, etc. Second, considering people's adaptation to life events and (external) conditions reveals substantial heterogeneity in the speed as well as the degree of reversion. Together, the evidence suggests that reported subjective well-being is a valuable complementary source of information about human well-being and the phenomenon of adaptation. Many challenges, of course, remain. First, we are only at the beginning of understanding variation in the process of adaptation. The modeling of happiness over the life course promises a productive perspective. Second, adaptation might well pose a challenge to individual decision-making when people are not good in predicting it. Third, adaptation might have great consequences for public policy and the idea of social welfare maximization depending on how fast and slow adapting people are treated.

Suggested Citation

  • Powdthavee, Nattavudh & Stutzer, Alois, 2014. "Economic Approaches to Understanding Change in Happiness," IZA Discussion Papers 8131, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8131
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    Cited by:

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    2. Felix R. FitzRoy & Michael A. Nolan, 2022. "Income Status and Life Satisfaction," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 23(1), pages 233-256, January.
    3. Odermatt, Reto & Powdthavee, Nattavudh & Stutzer, Alois, 2017. "Overoptimistic Entrepreneurs: Predicting Wellbeing Consequences of Self-Employment," IZA Discussion Papers 11098, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    4. Reto Odermatt & Alois Stutzer, 2019. "(Mis-)Predicted Subjective Well-Being Following Life Events," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 245-283.
    5. Simonetta Longhi, 2014. "Cultural diversity and subjective well-being," IZA Journal of Migration and Development, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-19, December.
    6. Phumsith Mahasuweerachai & Siwarut Pangjai, 2018. "Does Piped Water Improve Happiness? A Case from Asian Rural Communities," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 19(5), pages 1329-1346, June.
    7. Philip S. Morrison & Stephanié Rossouw & Talita Greyling, 2022. "The impact of exogenous shocks on national wellbeing. New Zealanders’ reaction to COVID-19," Applied Research in Quality of Life, Springer;International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies, vol. 17(3), pages 1787-1812, June.
    8. Piper, Alan T., 2014. "An Investigation into Happiness, Dynamics and Adaptation," MPRA Paper 57778, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Jianbo Luo, 2020. "A Pecuniary Explanation for the Heterogeneous Effects of Unemployment on Happiness," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 21(7), pages 2603-2628, October.
    10. Danzer, Alexander M. & Danzer, Natalia, 2016. "The long-run consequences of Chernobyl: Evidence on subjective well-being, mental health and welfare," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(C), pages 47-60.
    11. Odermatt, Reto & Stutzer, Alois, 2017. "Subjective Well-Being and Public Policy," IZA Discussion Papers 11102, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Johannes Klement, 2021. "Identifying Stabilising Effects on Survey Based Life Satisfaction Using Quasi-maximum Likelihood Estimation," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 22(8), pages 3611-3629, December.
    13. Reto Odermatt & Alois Stutzer, 2022. "Does the Dream of Home Ownership Rest Upon Biased Beliefs? A Test Based on Predicted and Realized Life Satisfaction," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 23(8), pages 3731-3763, December.

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    Keywords

    subjective well-being; life course perspective; economics and happiness; adaptation;
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    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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