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Happiness over the life cycle: exploring age-specific preferences

  • Lelkes, Orsolya

Existing evidence suggests a U-shaped relationship between age and life satisfaction, when controlling for income and education and other personal characteristics. On the other hand, there is no clear pattern between old age and happiness without the use of controls. Thus, it is not ageing as such, which results declining happiness, but rather the circumstances which are associated with ageing. Which of these circumstances could be averted? Are the preferences of the elderly are similar to others? The paper aims to explore these issues, using the European Social Survey. The results imply that the varying level of life satisfaction during the life cycle may be explained partly by changing preferences (by the decreasing importance of work, the increasing importance of religion, and the declining disutility of being single), and partly by changing circumstances. While changing preferences seem to increase well-being, changing circumstances seem to decrease it. Exceptions are the few positive changes in circumstances, which are likely to contribute to higher well-being, include increasing religiosity and relatively low pensioners’ poverty across the 21 European countries examined here. Old days thus are happy above all due to changing priorities in life.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 7302.

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Date of creation: 20 Feb 2008
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:7302
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  1. Andrew E. Clark & Andrew J. Oswald, 2006. "The curved relationship between subjective well-being and age," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590404, HAL.
  2. Andrew E. Clark & Ed Diener & Yannis Georgellis & Richard E. Lucas, 2007. "Lags and leads in life satisfaction: a test of the baseline hypothesis," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 19656, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  3. 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.
  4. Lelkes, Orsolya, 2006. "Knowing what is good for you: Empirical analysis of personal preferences and the "objective good"," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 285-307, April.
  5. 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.
  6. Andrew E. Clark, 2003. "Unemployment as a Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 289-322, April.
  7. Clark, Andrew E. & Etilé, Fabrice & Postel-Vinay, Fabien & Senik, Claudia & Van der Straeten, Karine, 2004. "Heterogeneity in Reported Well-Being: Evidence from Twelve European Countries," IZA Discussion Papers 1339, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. Lelkes, Orsolya, 2006. "Tasting freedom: Happiness, religion and economic transition," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 173-194, February.
  9. Stutzer, Alois & Frey, Bruno S., 2006. "Does marriage make people happy, or do happy people get married?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 326-347, April.
  10. Andrew E. Clark, 2006. "Born to be mild? Cohort effects don't explain why well-being is U-shaped in age," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590307, HAL.
  11. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
  12. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2007. "Is Well-being U-Shaped over the Life Cycle?," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 826, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  13. Frijters, Paul & Haisken-DeNew, John P. & Shields, Michael A., 2005. "Socio-Economic Status, Health Shocks, Life Satisfaction and Mortality: Evidence from an Increasing Mixed Proportional Hazard Model," IZA Discussion Papers 1488, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Peiro, Amado, 2006. "Happiness, satisfaction and socio-economic conditions: Some international evidence," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 348-365, April.
  15. Oswald, Andrew, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 478, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
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