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Did the Decline in Social Capital Decrease American Happiness? A Relational Explanation of the Happiness Paradox

Listed author(s):
  • Stefano Bartolini

    ()

  • Ennio Bilancini

    ()

  • Maurizio Pugno

    ()

Most popular explanations of the happiness paradox cannot fully account for the lack of growth in U.S. reported well-being during the last thirty years (Blanchflower and Oswald (2004)). In this paper we test an alternative hypothesis, namely that the decline in U.S. social capital is responsible for what is left unexplained by previous research. We provide three main findings. First, we show that the inclusion of social capital does improve the account of reported happiness. Second, we provide evidence of a decline in social capital indicators for the period 1975-2004, confirming Putnam's claim (Putnam (2000)). Finally, we show that failed growth of happiness is largely due to the decline of social capital and, in particular, to the decline of its relational and intrinsically motivated component.

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File URL: http://repec.deps.unisi.it/quaderni/513.pdf
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Paper provided by Department of Economics, University of Siena in its series Department of Economics University of Siena with number 513.

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Date of creation: Aug 2007
Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:513
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  1. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
  2. Frey, Bruno S & Stutzer, Alois, 2000. "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(466), pages 918-938, October.
  3. Alesina, Alberto & Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2004. "Inequality and happiness: are Europeans and Americans different?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2009-2042, August.
  4. John F. Helliwell, 2006. "Well-Being, Social Capital and Public Policy: What's New?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages 34-45, March.
  5. Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2008. "Gross national happiness as an answer to the Easterlin Paradox?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 22-42, April.
  6. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  7. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 489-520.
  8. Frey, Bruno S, 1997. "A Constitution for Knaves Crowds Out Civic Virtues," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(443), pages 1043-1053, July.
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