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Education, income, and the distribution of happiness

  • Owen, Ann
  • Phillips, Anne

We study happiness inequality in the United States using data from the 2005 to 2010 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). We aggregate individual level data to the state level and study how the average life satisfaction of various income, education, and life satisfaction groups changes with the average life satisfaction of the state. We find that the life satisfaction of the least happy does not increase in equal proportion with the average happiness of society, suggesting that increasing happiness levels are likely to lead to greater happiness inequality. However, the life satisfaction of the poorest and least educated does increase in equal proportions with average life satisfaction. Taken together, these results indicate that directed policies aimed at increasing the income of the poor or education levels of the least educated could result in less inequality in the distribution of welfare.

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File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/49387/1/MPRA_paper_49387.pdf
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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 49387.

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Date of creation: Jul 2013
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:49387
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Web page: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de

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  1. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2002. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 402-435, June.
  2. Leonardo Becchetti & Riccardo Massari & Paolo Naticchioni, 2011. "The drivers of happiness inequality: Suggestions for promoting social cohesion," Working Papers 2011-06, Universita' di Cassino, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche.
  3. Karen E. Dynan & Enrichetta Ravina, 2007. "Increasing Income Inequality, External Habits, and Self-Reported Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(2), pages 226-231, May.
  4. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2013. "Subjective and Objective Indicators of Racial Progress," IZA Discussion Papers 7309, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Clark, Andrew E. & Frijters, Paul & Shields, Michael A., 2007. "Relative Income, Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," IZA Discussion Papers 2840, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Dollar, David & Kraay, Aart, 2002. " Growth Is Good for the Poor," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 195-225, September.
  7. Jan Ott, 2005. "Level and Inequality of Happiness in Nations: Does Greater Happiness of a Greater Number Imply Greater Inequality in Happiness?," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 397-420, December.
  8. Wim Kalmijn & Ruut Veenhoven, 2005. "Measuring Inequality of Happiness in Nations: In Search for Proper Statistics," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 357-396, December.
  9. Bernard M.S. Van Praag, 2010. "Well-being Inequality and Reference Groups - An Agenda for New Research," CESifo Working Paper Series 2984, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Oswald, Andrew J. & Wu, Stephen, 2010. "Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-being: Evidence from the USA," IZA Discussion Papers 4695, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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