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Death, Happiness, and the Calculation of Compensatory Damages

  • Oswald, Andrew J.

    (Department of Economics, University of Warwick)

  • Powdthavee, Nattavudh

    (Institute of Education, University of London)

This paper studies the mental distress caused by bereavement. The largest emotional losses are from the death of a spouse; the second-worst in severity are the losses from the death of a child; the third-worst is the death of a parent. The paper explores how happiness regression equations might be used in tort cases to calculate compensatory damages for emotional harm and pain-and-suffering. We examine alternative well-being variables, discuss adaptation, consider the possibility that bereavement affects someone’s marginal utility of income, and suggest a procedure for correcting for the endogeneity of income. Although the paper’s contribution is methodological, and further research is needed, some illustrative compensation amounts are discussed

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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 827.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wrk:warwec:827
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Web page: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/

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  1. Shields, Michael A. & Wheatley Price, Stephen, 2001. "Exploring the Economic and Social Determinants of Psychological and Psychosocial Health," IZA Discussion Papers 396, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Jonathan Gardner & Andrew J. Oswald, 2006. "Do divorcing couples become happier by breaking up?," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 169(2), pages 319-336.
  3. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2006. "Income and happiness: Evidence, explanations and economic implications," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590436, HAL.
  4. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Bernard M. S. van Praag, 2001. "The Subjective Costs of Health Losses Due to Chronic Diseases: An Alternative Model for Monetary Appraisal," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 262, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  5. Oswald, Andrew J, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1815-31, November.
  6. Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2003. "Unhappiness and Crime : Evidence from South Africa," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 685, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  7. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2006. "Income and Happiness: Evidence, Explanations and Economic Implications. Working paper #5," NCER Working Paper Series 5, National Centre for Econometric Research.
  8. 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.
  9. Sunstein, Cass R & Schkade, David A & Kahneman, Daniel, 2000. "Do People Want Optimal Deterrence?," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 237-53, January.
  10. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Preferences over inflation and unemployment: Evidence from surveys of happiness," ZEI Working Papers B 03-2001, University of Bonn, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies.
  11. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2003. "Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress," Research Papers 1828, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  12. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2008. "Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
  13. 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.
  14. Wim Groot & Henriëtte Maassen van den Brink & Erik Plug, 2004. "Money for health: the equivalent variation of cardiovascular diseases," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(9), pages 859-872.
  15. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur A. Stone, 2006. "Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer? A Focusing Illusion," Working Papers 77, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  16. 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.
  17. Bernard M.S. van Praag & B.E. Baarsma, 2004. "Using Happiness Surveys to value Intangibles; the Case of Airport Noise," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 04-024/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  18. Oswald, Andrew J & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2007. "Obesity, Unhappiness, and The Challenge of Affluence : Theory and Evidence," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 793, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  19. Cooter, Robert D., 2003. "Hand Rule Damages for Incompensable Losses," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt5rf3f1m2, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  20. Andrew J. Oswald & Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2007. "Review 1: Obesity, Unhappiness, and The Challenge of Affluence: Theory and Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(521), pages 441-454, 06.
  21. Michael A. Shields & Stephen Wheatley Price, 2005. "Exploring the economic and social determinants of psychological well-being and perceived social support in England," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(3), pages 513-537.
  22. Menzel, Paul & Dolan, Paul & Richardson, Jeff & Olsen, Jan Abel, 2002. "The role of adaptation to disability and disease in health state valuation: a preliminary normative analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(12), pages 2149-2158, December.
  23. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  24. Paul Dolan & Daniel Kahneman, 2008. "Interpretations Of Utility And Their Implications For The Valuation Of Health," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(525), pages 215-234, 01.
  25. Luis Rayo & Gary S. Becker, 2007. "Evolutionary Efficiency and Happiness," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 302-337.
  26. N/A, 1996. "Events," Psychology and Developing Societies, Centre of Advanced Studies in Psychology, vol. 8(2), pages 287-288, September.
  27. repec:pri:cepsud:125krueger is not listed on IDEAS
  28. Nattavudh Powdthavee, 2007. "Are there Geographical Variations in the Psychological Cost of Unemployment in South Africa?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 80(3), pages 629-652, February.
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