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New measures of the costs of unemployment: Evidence from the subjective well-being of 2.3 million Americans

Author

Listed:
  • Helliwell, John

    () (University of British Columbia)

  • Huang, Haifang

    () (University of Alberta, Department of Economics)

Abstract

By exploiting two very large samples of US subjective well-being data we are able to obtain comparable estimates of the monetary and other costs of unemployment on the unemployed themselves, while simultaneously estimating the effects of local employment on the subjective well-being of the rest of the population. For those who are unemployed, the subjective well-being consequences can be divided into income and non-income effects, with the latter being five times larger than the former. This is similar to what has been found in many countries, as is our finding that the non-income effects are lower for individuals living in areas of high unemployment. Most importantly, we are able to use the large sample size and variety of questions in the BRFSS and Gallup daily polls to reconcile, and extend to the United States, what had previously seemed to be contradictory results on the size and nature of the spillover effects of unemployment on subjective well-being. At the population level the spillover effects are twice as large as the direct effects, making the total well-being costs of unemployment fifteen times larger than those directly due to the lower incomes of the unemployed.

Suggested Citation

  • Helliwell, John & Huang, Haifang, 2011. "New measures of the costs of unemployment: Evidence from the subjective well-being of 2.3 million Americans," Working Papers 2011-3, University of Alberta, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ris:albaec:2011_003
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    File URL: https://sites.ualberta.ca/~econwps/2011/wp2011-03.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 335-341.
    2. John F. Helliwell & Robert D. Putnam, 2007. "Education and Social Capital," Eastern Economic Journal, Eastern Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 1-19, Winter.
    3. Helliwell, John F., 2003. "How's life? Combining individual and national variables to explain subjective well-being," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 331-360, March.
    4. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 335-341.
    5. Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Is Business Cycle Volatility Costly? Evidence from Surveys of Subjective Well-Being," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 6(1), pages 1-26, Spring.
    6. Andreas Knabe & Steffen Ratzel, 2011. "Quantifying the psychological costs of unemployment: the role of permanent income," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(21), pages 2751-2763.
    7. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
    8. 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, pages 95-144.
    9. Mavridis, Dimitris, 2010. "Can subjective well-being predict unemployment length ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5293, The World Bank.
    10. 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, pages 95-144.
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    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. FED STUDY: We Conservatively Estimate That The Financial Crisis Cost Us Up To $14 Trillion
      by Rob Wile in Business Insider on 2013-07-30 04:09:00

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Michael Landesmann & Isilda Mara, 2013. "Do I Stay because I am Happy or am I Happy because I Stay? Life Satisfaction in Migration, and the Decision to Stay Permanently, Return and Out-migrate," wiiw Working Papers 103, The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies, wiiw.
    2. Alexander Krauss & Carol Graham, 2013. "Subjective wellbeing in Colombia: some insights on vulnerability, job security, and relative incomes," International Journal of Happiness and Development, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 1(3), pages 233-260.
    3. Timothy J. Bartik, 2014. "How Effects of Local Labor Demand Shocks Vary with Local Labor Market Conditions," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 14-202, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    4. Abel Brodeur & Sarah Flèche, 2013. "Where the Streets Have a Name: Income Comparisons in the US," CEP Discussion Papers dp1196, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    5. Timothy J. Bartik, 2013. "Social Costs of Jobs Lost Due to Environmental Regulations," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 13-193, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    6. Murat Genc & Masood Gheasi & Peter Nijkamp & Jacques Poot, 2012. "The impact of immigration on international trade: a meta-analysis," Chapters,in: Migration Impact Assessment, chapter 9, pages 301-337 Edward Elgar Publishing.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    unemployment; well-being;

    JEL classification:

    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • J64 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Unemployment: Models, Duration, Incidence, and Job Search
    • J68 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Public Policy

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