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Children, happiness and taxation

Empirical analyses on the determinants of life satisfaction often include the impact of the number of children variable among available controls without fully discriminating between the two (sociorelational and pecuniary) components. In our empirical analysis on the German Socioeconomic Panel we show that, when introducing household income without correction for the number of members, the pecuniary effect prevails and the sign is negative while, when we equivalise income with the most commonly adopted equivalence scales, the non pecuniary (socio-relational) effect emerges and the impact of the variable is positive and significant above a minimal scale elasticity threshold. We further reject slope homogeneity and show that the positive relational effect is stronger for males, below median income households and East Germans. We interpret these subsample split results as driven by heterogeneous opportunity costs. Our empirical results give rise to a paradox: why people have children if the aggregate effect on life satisfaction is negative? We provide in the paper some interpretations consistent with our findings. Some of them are based on motivational complexity. This implies that demographic policies and the paradox are strictly connected. Effectiveness of tax/subsidies impacting on fertility crucially depends on whether the children paradox may be solved within the self-interested rationality paradigm.

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Paper provided by Associazione Italiana per la Cultura della Cooperazione e del Non Profit in its series AICCON Working Papers with number 64-2009.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: 07 Dec 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ris:aiccon:2009_064
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  1. Bruno Frey & Simon Luechinger & Alois Stutzer, 2009. "The life satisfaction approach to valuing public goods: The case of terrorism," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 138(3), pages 317-345, March.
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  10. Michael A. Shields & Stephen Wheatley Price, 2005. "Exploring the economic and social determinants of psychological well-being and perceived social support in England," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(3), pages 513-537.
  11. Kenneth Smith, 2003. "Individual Welfare in the Soviet Union," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 64(1), pages 75-105, October.
  12. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Smeeding, Timothy M. & Merz, Joachim, 1994. "Relative Inequality and Poverty in Germany and the United States Using Alternative Equivalence Scales," MPRA Paper 16295, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  13. Markus M. Grabka, 2008. "Codebook for the $PEQUIV File 1984-2007: CNEF Variables with Extended Income Information for the SOEP," Data Documentation 34, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  14. Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert J. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 615, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  15. Merz, Joachim & Faik, Jürgen, 1994. "Equivalence Scales Based on Revealed Preference Consumption Expenditure Microdata - The Case of West Germany," MPRA Paper 16297, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  16. van Praag, Bernard M. S. & Baarsma, Barbara E., 2004. "Using Happiness Surveys to Value Intangibles: The Case of Airport Noise," IZA Discussion Papers 1096, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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  18. Sen, Amartya K, 1979. "Personal Utilities and Public Judgements: Or What's Wrong with Welfare Economics?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 89(355), pages 537-58, September.
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  22. Luca Stanca, 2008. "With or Without You? Measuring the Quality of Relational Life Throughout the World," Working Papers 144, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2008.
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  24. repec:dgr:uvatin:20020022 is not listed on IDEAS
  25. Angeles, Luis, 2010. "Adaptation and anticipation effects to life events in the United Kingdom," SIRE Discussion Papers 2010-01, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
  26. Dolan, Paul & Peasgood, Tessa & White, Mathew, 2008. "Do we really know what makes us happy A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 94-122, February.
  27. Luechinger, Simon & Raschky, Paul A., 2009. "Valuing flood disasters using the life satisfaction approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(3-4), pages 620-633, April.
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