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The macroeconomics of happiness

  • DiTella, Rafael
  • MacCulloch, Robert
  • Oswald, Andrew J.

A large literature in macroeconomics assumes a social objective function, W(p, U), where inflation, p, and unemployment, U, are bads. This paper provides some of the first formal evidence for such an approach. It uses data on the reported well-being levels of approximately one quarter of a million randomly sampled Europeans and Americans from the 1970's to the 1990's. After controlling for personal characteristics, year dummies and country fixed effects, we find that the data trace out a W(p, U) function. It is approximately a linearly additive "misery index". The paper calculates the implied dollar value of a low inflation rate. It also examines the structure of happiness equations across countries and time.

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Paper provided by University of Bonn, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies in its series ZEI Working Papers with number B 03-1999.

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Date of creation: 1999
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:zeiwps:b031999
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  1. Andrew Atkeson & Christopher Phelan, 1994. "Reconsidering the Costs of Business Cycles with Incomplete Markets," NBER Working Papers 4719, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 1999. "Group Loyalty and the Taste for Redistribution," Working Papers 9902, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  3. Rafael Di Tella & Robert J. MacCulloch, 2002. "The Determination of Unemployment Benefits," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(2), pages 404-434, Part.
  4. Blanchflower, David G, 1991. "Fear, Unemployment and Pay Flexibility," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 101(406), pages 483-96, May.
  5. Barro, Robert J & Gordon, David B, 1983. "A Positive Theory of Monetary Policy in a Natural Rate Model," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(4), pages 589-610, August.
  6. 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.
  7. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
  8. 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.
  9. Daniel Kahneman & Peter P. Wakker & Rakesh Sarin, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-406.
  10. Yew-Kwang, Ng, 1997. "A case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Departmental Working Papers _081, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Department of Economics.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Oswald, Andrew J, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1815-31, November.
  14. 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.
  15. Konow, James & Earley, Joseph, 2007. "The Hedonistic Paradox: Is Homo Economicus Happier?," MPRA Paper 2728, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  16. 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.
  17. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  24. Matthew Rabin., 1997. "Psychology and Economics," Economics Working Papers 97-251, University of California at Berkeley.
  25. repec:oup:restud:v:72:y:2005:i:2:p:367-393 is not listed on IDEAS
  26. 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.
  27. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J. & Warr, Peter B., 1994. "Is job satisfaction u-shaped in age ?," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9407, CEPREMAP.
  28. Moulton, Brent R., 1986. "Random group effects and the precision of regression estimates," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 385-397, August.
  29. 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.
  30. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R., 1996. "An Emprirical Study of Unemployment Benefit Preferences," Economics Series Working Papers 99179, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  31. Morawetz, David, 1977. "Income Distribution and Self-Rated Happiness: Some Empirical Evidence," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 87(347), pages 511-22, September.
  32. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 1999. "Partisan social happiness," ZEI Working Papers B 22-1999, University of Bonn, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies.
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