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Education, income, and the distribution of happiness

Author

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  • Owen, Ann
  • Phillips, Anne

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Owen, Ann & Phillips, Anne, 2013. "Education, income, and the distribution of happiness," MPRA Paper 49387, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:49387
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/49387/1/MPRA_paper_49387.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Leonardo Becchetti & Riccardo Massari & Paolo Naticchioni, 2014. "The drivers of happiness inequality: suggestions for promoting social cohesion," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(2), pages 419-442.
    2. Dollar, David & Kraay, Aart, 2002. "Growth Is Good for the Poor," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 195-225, September.
    3. Bernard Praag, 2011. "Well-being inequality and reference groups: an agenda for new research," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(1), pages 111-127, March.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2012. "Subjective and Objective Indicators of Racial Progress," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 459-493.
    7. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
    8. 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).
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    happiness inequality; happiness of poor; happiness of educated;

    JEL classification:

    • D3 - Microeconomics - - Distribution
    • I0 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General
    • I24 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Education and Inequality

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