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The Macroeconomics of Happiness

  • Di Tella, Rafael
  • MacCulloch, Robert J.
  • Oswald, Andrew J.

This paper shows that macroeconomic movements have strong effects on the happiness of nations. First, we find that there are clear microeconomic patterns in the psychological well-being levels of a quarter of a million randomly sampled Europeans and Americans from the 1970's to the 1990's. Happiness equations are monotonically increasing in income, and have a similar structure in different countries. Second, movements in reported well-being are correlated with changes in macroeconomic variables such as Gross Domestic Product. This holds true after controlling for the personal characteristics of respondents, country fixed-effects, year dummies, and country-specific time trends. Third, the paper establishes that recessions create psychic losses that extend beyond the fall in GDP and rise in the number of people unemployed. These losses are large. Fourth, the welfare state appears to be a compensating force: higher unemployment benefits are associated with higher national well-being.

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Paper provided by University of Warwick, Department of Economics in its series The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) with number 615.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: 2001
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:615
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  1. Lucas, Robert E., 1981. "Discussion of : Stanley Fischer, "towards an understanding of the costs of inflation: II"," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 43-52, January.
  2. Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2005. "Partisan Social Happiness," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(2), pages 367-393.
  3. Fernando Alvarez & Urban J. Jermann, 2000. "Using Asset Prices to Measure the Cost of Business Cycles," NBER Working Papers 7978, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Morawetz, David, 1977. "Income Distribution and Self-Rated Happiness: Some Empirical Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 87(347), pages 511-22, September.
  5. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R., 1996. "An Emprirical Study of Unemployment Benefit Preferences," Economics Series Working Papers 99179, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  6. Blanchflower, D., 1989. "Fear, Unemployment And Pay Flexibility," Papers 344, London School of Economics - Centre for Labour Economics.
  7. Robert J. Shiller, 1997. "Why Do People Dislike Inflation?," NBER Chapters, in: Reducing Inflation: Motivation and Strategy, pages 13-70 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  9. Kahneman, Daniel & Wakker, Peter P & Sarin, Rakesh, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-405, May.
  10. Craig Fox & Daniel Kahneman, 1992. "Correlations, causes and heuristics in surveys of life satisfaction," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 221-234, November.
  11. Andrew Atkeson & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1994, Volume 9, pages 187-218 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R., 1996. "The Determination of Unemployment Benefits," Economics Series Working Papers 99180, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  13. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  14. 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.
  15. Robert J. Barro & David B. Gordon, 1981. "A Positive Theory of Monetary Policy in a Natural-Rate Model," NBER Working Papers 0807, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1997. "A Case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1848-58, November.
  17. Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 1999. "Group Loyalty and the Taste for Redistribution," Working Papers 9902, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  18. Fischer, Stanley, 1981. "Towards an understanding of the costs of inflation: II," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 15(1), pages 5-41, January.
  19. Konow, James & Earley, Joseph, 2007. "The Hedonistic Paradox: Is Homo Economicus Happier?," MPRA Paper 2728, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  20. Tito Boeri & Axel Börsch-Supan & Guido Tabellini, 2001. "Would you like to shrink the welfare state? A survey of European citizens," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 16(32), pages 7-50, 04.
  21. Atkinson, Anthony B & Micklewright, John, 1991. "Unemployment Compensation and Labor Market Transitions: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 29(4), pages 1679-1727, December.
  22. Matthew Rabin., 1997. "Psychology and Economics," Economics Working Papers 97-251, University of California at Berkeley.
  23. Moulton, Brent R., 1986. "Random group effects and the precision of regression estimates," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 385-397, August.
  24. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J. & Warr, Peter B., 1994. "Is job satisfaction u-shaped in age ?," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9407, CEPREMAP.
  25. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  26. Frey, Bruno S & Schneider, Friedrich, 1978. "An Empirical Study of Politico-Economic Interaction in the United States," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 60(2), pages 174-83, May.
  27. Oswald, A.J., 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Papers 18, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  28. 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.
  29. Yew-Kwang Ng, 1996. "Happiness surveys: Some comparability issues and an exploratory survey based on just perceivable increments," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 1-27, May.
  30. Kahneman, Daniel & Thaler, Richard H, 1991. "Economic Analysis and the Psychology of Utility: Applications to Compensation Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 341-46, May.
  31. repec:chk:cuhked:_081 is not listed on IDEAS
  32. 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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