nep-hap New Economics Papers
on Economics of Happiness
Issue of 2007‒05‒19
five papers chosen by
Viviana Di Giovinazzo
University of Milano-Bicocca

  1. Relative status and well-being: evidence from U.S. suicide deaths By Mary C. Daly; Daniel J. Wilson; Norman J. Johnson
  2. Modern Economic Growth and Quality of Life: Cross Sectional and Time Series Evidence By Richard A. Easterlin; Laura Angelescu
  3. Health and the Evolution of Welfare across Brazilian Municipalities By Rodrigo R. Soares
  4. Human Rights and National Poverty Reduction Strategies: Conceptual framework for human rights analysis of poverty reduction strategies and reviews of Guatemala, Liberia and Nepal By Sakiko Fukuda-Parr
  5. Job disamenities, job satisfaction, quit intentions, and actual separations: putting the pieces together By Böckerman, Petri; Ilmakunnas, Pekka

  1. By: Mary C. Daly; Daniel J. Wilson; Norman J. Johnson
    Abstract: This paper empirically assesses the theory of interpersonal income comparison using individual level data on suicide deaths in the United States. We model suicide as a choice variable, conditional on exogenous risk factors, reflecting an individual's assessment of current and expected future utility. Our empirical analysis considers whether suicide risk is systematically related to the income of others, holding own income and other individual factors fixed. We estimate proportional hazards and probit models of the suicide hazard using two separate and independent data sets: (1) the National Longitudinal Mortality Study and (2) the Detailed Mortality Files combined with the 5 percent Public Use Micro Sample of the 1990 decennial census. Results from both data sources show that, controlling for own income and individual characteristics, individual suicide risk rises with reference group income. This result holds for reference groups defined broadly, such as by county, and more narrowly by county and one demographic marker (e.g., age, sex, race). These findings are robust to alternative specifications and cannot be explained by geographic variation in cost of living, access to emergency medical care, mismeasurement of deaths by suicide, or by bias due to endogeneity of own income. Our results confirm findings using self-reported happiness data and are consistent with models of utility featuring "external habit" or "Keeping Up with the Joneses" preferences.
    Keywords: Income distribution
    Date: 2007
  2. By: Richard A. Easterlin (University of Southern California and IZA); Laura Angelescu (University of Southern California)
    Abstract: To what extent are improvements in quality of life (material living levels, health, education, political and civil rights, happiness, and the like) associated with economic growth? International comparisons of quality of life (QoL) conditions almost always point to a strong positive association with real GDP per capita. Historical experience, however, frequently belies the results of these comparisons. More often than not the timing of various improvements in QoL, material living levels excepted, is different from that in real GDP per capita - some indicators preceding, others following. Moreover, the sequence of improvements in various aspects of QoL is not always the same from one part of the world to another. And sometimes, as in the case of happiness and life satisfaction, QoL indicators remain unchanged despite a doubling or more of real GDP per capita. In contrast to the results of simple international point-of-time comparisons, history suggests that improvements in many realms of life are not an automatic result of economic growth.
    Keywords: quality of life, well-being, economic growth, international and historical comparisons
    JEL: N30 O57 D60 Y1
    Date: 2007–04
  3. By: Rodrigo R. Soares (University of Maryland, Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, NBER and IZA)
    Abstract: This paper describes the pattern of reductions in mortality across Brazilian municipalities between 1970 and 2000, and analyzes its causes and consequences. It shows that, as in the international context, the relationship between income and life expectancy has shifted consistently in the recent past. But reductions in mortality within Brazil have been more homogeneously distributed than across countries. We use a compensating differentials approach to estimate the value of the observed reductions in mortality. The results suggest that gains in life expectancy had a welfare value equivalent to 39% of the growth in income per capita, being therefore responsible for 28% of the overall improvement in welfare. We then use a dynamic panel to conduct a preliminary assessment of the potential determinants of these gains. We show that improvements in education, access to water, and sanitation seem to be important determinants of the dimension of changes in life expectancy not correlated with income.
    Keywords: mortality, life expectancy, value of life, inequality, health
    JEL: I12 I31 I38 J17 O15 O54
    Date: 2007–05
  4. By: Sakiko Fukuda-Parr (The New School)
    Abstract: Poverty is an important human rights concern. Human rights are claims that people have for social arrangements to guarantee their substantive freedoms; poverty reflects failures in these social arrangements and in the actions of duty bearers. It is the poorest people in society --- those with low incomes, education, insecure health, and political power --- who are most vulnerable to severe abuse of their human rights in multiple areas. At the same time, it is lack of human rights protection that leaves people vulnerable to falling into economic and social destitution. Poverty is both a cause and consequence of human rights abuse and lack of protection. Yet human rights agendas are rarely explicitly built into national strategies for poverty reduction. This paper is a consolidated report of a study commissioned by OHCHR on developing a conceptual framework for integrating human rights into national strategies for poverty reduction and identifying operational priorities. It builds on and takes further the 2003 OHCHR conceptual framework on human rights and poverty reduction strategies authored by Hunt, Nowak and Osmani. It incorporates a human rights analysis of poverty reduction policies of Guatemala, Liberia and Nepal. The paper argues that human rights perspectives contribute new approaches in normative, analytical and instrumental dimensions of poverty reduction strategies. First, it brings a strong and explicit normative framework legitimized by the backing of international law that emphasize principles of equality, non-discrimination and concern for the most vulnerable, and a social justice agenda to policy priorities. Second, human rights perspectives introduce new analyses to the causes of poverty - focussing on institutionalized discrimination, lack of political voice, institutional failures to guarantee human rights including weak protection for civil and political rights. Third, human rights have instrumental (not just intrinsic) value for poverty reduction; human rights empower poor people through the power of legal protection for human rights --- civil, political, economic, social and cultural --- of poor people as well as through the power of ideas that legitimize the claims of poor people to surmount obstacles in their lives.
    Date: 2007–04
  5. By: Böckerman, Petri; Ilmakunnas, Pekka
    Abstract: We analyze the potential role of adverse working conditions at the workplace in the determination of employees’ quit behavior. Our data contain both detailed information on perceived job disamenities, job satisfaction, and quit intentions from a cross-section survey and information on employees’ actual job switches from longitudinal register data that can be linked to the survey. Reduced-form models show that employees facing adverse working conditions tend to have greater intentions to switch jobs and search for new matches more frequently. Multivariate probit models point out that job dissatisfaction that arises in adverse working conditions is related to job search and this in turn is related to actual job switches.
    Keywords: working conditions; job satisfaction; on-the-job search; job separation; quits
    JEL: J64 J28
    Date: 2007–05–15

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