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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 & Fabrice Etilé & Fabien Postel-Vinay & Claudia Senik & Karine Van Der Straeten, 2005. "Heterogeneity in reported wel-being: Evidence from twelve European countries," Post-Print halshs-00754095, HAL.
  2. Andrew E. Clark & Andrew J. Oswald, 2006. "The curved relationship between subjective well-being and age," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590404, HAL.
  3. Andrew E. Clark & Ed Diener & Yannis Georgellis & Richard E. Lucas, 2007. "Lags and Leads in Life Satisfaction: A Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," CEP Discussion Papers dp0836, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
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  6. Orsolya Lelkes, 2005. "Knowing what is good for you: Empirical analysis of personal preferences and the 'objective good'," CASE Papers 094, Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, LSE.
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  8. 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).
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  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. Alois Stutzer & Bruno S. Frey, . "Does Marriage Make People Happy, Or Do Happy People Get Married?," IEW - Working Papers 143, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  12. 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.
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