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Is Unemployment More Costly Than Inflation?

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  • David G. Blanchflower

Abstract

Previous literature has found that both unemployment and inflation lower happiness. This paper extends the literature by looking at more countries over a longer time period. It also considers the impacts on happiness of GDP per capita and interest rates. I find, conventionally, that both higher unemployment and higher inflation lower happiness. Interest rates are also found to enter happiness equations negatively. Changes in GDP per capita have little impact on more economically developed countries, but do have a positive impact in the poorest countries -- consistent with the Easterlin hypothesis. I find that unemployment depresses well-being more than inflation. The least educated and the old are more concerned about unemployment than inflation. Conversely, the young and the most educated are more concerned about inflation. An individual's experience of high inflation over their adult lifetime lowers their current happiness over and above the effects from inflation and unemployment. Unemployment appears to be more costly than inflation in terms of its impact on wellbeing.

Suggested Citation

  • David G. Blanchflower, 2007. "Is Unemployment More Costly Than Inflation?," NBER Working Papers 13505, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13505
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
    2. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(8), pages 1733-1749, April.
    3. 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.
    4. Blanchflower, David G. & Shadforth, Chris, 2007. "Entrepreneurship in the UK," Foundations and Trends(R) in Entrepreneurship, now publishers, vol. 3(4), pages 257-364, July.
    5. Andrew Leigh & Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Happiness and the Human Development Index: Australia Is Not a Paradox," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 39(2), pages 176-184, June.
    6. David G. Blanchflower, 2009. "International Evidence on Well-Being," NBER Chapters,in: Measuring the Subjective Well-Being of Nations: National Accounts of Time Use and Well-Being, pages 155-226 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2005. "Happiness and the Human Development Index: The Paradox of Australia," Australian Economic Review, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, vol. 38(3), pages 307-318, September.
    8. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "Hypertension and happiness across nations," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 218-233, March.
    9. Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2005. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 963-1002.
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    11. Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Is Business Cycle Volatility Costly? Evidence from Surveys of Subjective Well-Being," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(1), pages 1-26, Spring.
    12. Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J., 2007. "Money and mental wellbeing: A longitudinal study of medium-sized lottery wins," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 49-60, January.
    13. Blanchflower, David G, 1991. "Fear, Unemployment and Pay Flexibility," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(406), pages 483-496, May.
    14. Moulton, Brent R., 1986. "Random group effects and the precision of regression estimates," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 385-397, August.
    15. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew Oswald, 2000. "The Rising Well-Being of the Young," NBER Chapters,in: Youth Employment and Joblessness in Advanced Countries, pages 289-328 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur Stone, 2004. "Toward National Well-Being Accounts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 429-434, May.
    17. Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2006. "Some Uses of Happiness Data in Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 25-46, Winter.
    18. David G. Blanchflower & Richard B. Freeman, 2000. "Youth Employment and Joblessness in Advanced Countries," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number blan00-1, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Antje Mertens & Miriam Beblo, 2016. "Self-Reported Satisfaction and the Economic Crisis of 2007–2010: Or How People in the UK and Germany Perceive a Severe Cyclical Downturn," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 125(2), pages 537-565, January.
    2. Lena Malesevic Perovic, 2010. "Life Satisfaction in Croatia," Croatian Economic Survey, The Institute of Economics, Zagreb, vol. 12(1), pages 45-81, April.
    3. Ehrmann, Michael & Tzamourani, Panagiota, 2012. "Memories of high inflation," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 174-191.
    4. David G. Blanchflower, 2009. "International Evidence on Well-Being," NBER Chapters,in: Measuring the Subjective Well-Being of Nations: National Accounts of Time Use and Well-Being, pages 155-226 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. José Ignacio Gimenez-Nadal & José Alberto Molina & Raquel Ortega, 2010. "Unemployment and Time Use: Evidence from the Spanish Time Use Survey," Documentos de Trabajo dt2010-02, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales, Universidad de Zaragoza.
    6. Antje Mertens & Miriam Beblo, 2016. "Self-Reported Satisfaction and the Economic Crisis of 2007–2010: Or How People in the UK and Germany Perceive a Severe Cyclical Downturn," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 125(2), pages 537-565, January.
    7. Ronald Schettkat & Rongrong Sun, 2009. "Monetary policy and European unemployment," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(1), pages 94-108, Spring.
    8. Néstor Gándelman & Rubén Hernández-Murillo, 2009. "The impact of inflation and unemployment on subjective personal and country evaluations," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue May, pages 107-126.
    9. Andrew E. Clark & Andreas Knabe & Steffen Rätzel, 2008. "Boon or Bane? Others' unemployment, well-being and job insecurity," Working Papers halshs-00586022, HAL.
    10. Gebhard Kirchgässner, 2016. "Voting and Popularity," CESifo Working Paper Series 6182, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Clark, Andrew & Knabe, Andreas & Rätzel, Steffen, 2010. "Boon or bane? Others' unemployment, well-being and job insecurity," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 52-61, January.
    12. Nabi, Mahmoud Sami & Boughzala, Mongi, 2009. "Essai de chiffrage du coût social du chômage des jeunes diplômés en Tunisie
      [Social cost of young unemployed graduates in Tunisia]
      ," MPRA Paper 84438, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Alan B. Krueger & Daniel Kahneman & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur A. Stone, 2009. "National Time Accounting: The Currency of Life," NBER Chapters,in: Measuring the Subjective Well-Being of Nations: National Accounts of Time Use and Well-Being, pages 9-86 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Pavel Luengas & Inder J. Ruprah, 2009. "Should Central Banks Target Happiness?: Evidence from Latin America," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 3013, Inter-American Development Bank.
    15. Mandal, Bidisha & Ayyagari, Padmaja & Gallo, William T., 2011. "Job loss and depression: The role of subjective expectations," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(4), pages 576-583, February.
    16. Nadir Preziosi, 2013. "Life is Getting Worse in ESS Data: Is This Due to Micro or Macro Factors?," Bruges European Economic Research Papers 28, European Economic Studies Department, College of Europe.
    17. Ampudia, Miguel & Ehrmann, Michael, 2017. "Macroeconomic experiences and risk taking of euro area households," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 91(C), pages 146-156.
    18. Ruprah, Inder J. & Luengas, Pavel, 2011. "Monetary policy and happiness: Preferences over inflation and unemployment in Latin America," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 59-66, February.
    19. repec:spr:ariqol:v:12:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s11482-016-9465-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Ronald Schettkat & Rongrong Sun, 2009. "Nicht zu früh bremsen! - Der Einfluss der Geldpolitik auf die langfristige Wirtschaftsentwicklung in Deutschland und den USA-," Schumpeter Discussion Papers sdp09003, Universitätsbibliothek Wuppertal, University Library.
    21. Alan Krueger & Daniel Kahneman & Claude Fischler & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur Stone, 2009. "Time Use and Subjective Well-Being in France and the U.S," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 93(1), pages 7-18, August.
    22. Becchetti, Leonardo & Castriota, Stefano & Giuntella, Giovanni Osea, 2010. "The effects of age and job protection on the welfare costs of inflation and unemployment," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 137-146, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • E31 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Price Level; Inflation; Deflation

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