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

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  • Stefano Bartolini
  • Ennio Bilancini
  • Maurizio Pugno

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefano Bartolini & Ennio Bilancini & Maurizio Pugno, 2007. "Did the Decline in Social Capital Decrease American Happiness? A Relational Explanation of the Happiness Paradox," Department of Economics University of Siena 513, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  • Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:513
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Rafael Di Tella & Robert J. MacCulloch & Andrew J. Oswald, 2003. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 809-827, November.
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    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Roland Bénabou & Jean Tirole, 2003. "Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 489-520.
    9. 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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    Cited by:

    1. Leonardo Becchetti & Massimo Cermelli, 2018. "Civil economy: definition and strategies for sustainable well-living," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 65(3), pages 329-357, September.
    2. J. Tomás & P. Sancho & M. Gutiérrez & L. Galiana, 2014. "Predicting Life Satisfaction in the Oldest-Old: A Moderator Effects Study," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 117(2), pages 601-613, June.
    3. Francesco Sarracino, 2009. "Social Capital and Subjective Well-Being trends: Evidence from 11 European countries," Department of Economics University of Siena 558, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    4. Leonardo Becchetti & Pierluigi Conzo, 2018. "Preferences for Well-Being and Life Satisfaction," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 136(2), pages 775-805, April.
    5. Gianna Lotito & Matteo Migheli & Guido Ortona, 2015. "An Experimental Inquiry into the Nature of Relational Goods, and Their Impact on Co-operation," Group Decision and Negotiation, Springer, vol. 24(4), pages 699-722, July.
    6. Angelo Antoci & Fabio Sabatini & Mauro Sodini, 2014. "Bowling alone but tweeting together: the evolution of human interaction in the social networking era," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 48(4), pages 1911-1927, July.
    7. Leonardo Becchetti & Alessandra Pelloni, 2013. "What are we learning from the life satisfaction literature?," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 60(2), pages 113-155, June.
    8. Layard, Richard & Mayraz, Guy & Nickell, Stephen, 2009. "Does relative income matter? Are the critics right?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28594, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    9. Bruno S. Frey, 2020. "What are the opportunities for future happiness research?," International Review of Economics, Springer;Happiness Economics and Interpersonal Relations (HEIRS), vol. 67(1), pages 5-12, March.
    10. Antoci, Angelo & Sabatini, Fabio & Sodini, Mauro, 2012. "See you on Facebook! A framework for analyzing the role of computer-mediated interaction in the evolution of social capital," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 541-547.
    11. Pugno, Maurizio, 2009. "The Easterlin paradox and the decline of social capital: An integrated explanation," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 590-600, August.
    12. Marta Portela & Isabel Neira & Maria del Salinas-Jiménez, 2013. "Social Capital and Subjective Wellbeing in Europe: A New Approach on Social Capital," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 114(2), pages 493-511, November.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    happiness; social capital; economic growth; relational goods; instrinsic motivations;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development

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