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

  • Helliwell, John

    ()

    (University of British Columbia)

  • Huang, Haifang

    ()

    (University of Alberta, Department of Economics)

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.

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File URL: http://www.ualberta.ca/~econwps/2011/wp2011-03.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Alberta, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2011-3.

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Length: 57 pages
Date of creation: 24 Feb 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ris:albaec:2011_003
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Preferences over inflation and unemployment: Evidence from surveys of happiness," ZEI Working Papers B 03-2001, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn.
  4. 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.
  5. Mavridis, Dimitris, 2010. "Can subjective well-being predict unemployment length ?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5293, The World Bank.
  6. 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.
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