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Do happiness indexes truly reveal happiness? Measuring happiness using revealed preferences from migration flows

  • Helena Marques


    (Universitat de les Illes Balears)

  • Gabriel Pino


    (Southern Illinois University)

  • J.D. Tena


    (Universita di Sassari, Italy and Universidad Carlos III, Spain)

In this paper we attempt to establish a nexus between migration decisions and self-assessed happiness, where migration is taken as a mechanism for revealing preferences. The happiness literature has proposed both economic and non-economic determinants of happiness which are very similar to the factors that may be thought of as determinants of migration: absolute income, relative income, demographic and social characteristics, social development, relationship with others and characteristics of the place where we live. To these we add bilateral gravity variables, migration policies, and two survey-based happiness indexes. First, these two indexes are negatively correlated to net migration flows. Second, almost all the other explanatory variables are significant and as such survey-based happiness indexes fail to account for them. Third, we show how an international happiness ranking changes by taking into account those omitted factors. Finally, our migration-based ranking shows that, although many countries "truthfully" reveal happiness levels, in fact 19 countries are net migration senders even though they are self-proclaimed happy in surveys, whereas 23 countries are net migration recipients, even though in surveys they are self-proclaimed unhappy. We identify the sources of this mismatch and suggest where action could be taken to bring people’s self-assessment of happiness in line with revealed preferences.

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Paper provided by Universitat de les Illes Balears, Departament d'Economía Aplicada in its series DEA Working Papers with number 59.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:ubi:deawps:59
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