nep-hap New Economics Papers
on Economics of Happiness
Issue of 2009‒01‒10
three papers chosen by
Viviana Di Giovinazzo
University of Milano-Bicocca

  1. Authentic Happiness Theory Supported by Impact of Religion on Life Satisfaction : A Longitudinal Analysis with Data for Germany By Bruce Headey; Jürgen Schupp; Ingrid Tucci; Gert G. Wagner
  2. Do Child Tax Benefits Affect the Wellbeing of Children? Evidence from Canadian Child Benefit Expansions By Kevin Milligan; Mark Stabile
  3. Behavioral Welfare Economics By B. Douglas Bernheim

  1. By: Bruce Headey; Jürgen Schupp; Ingrid Tucci; Gert G. Wagner
    Abstract: Using data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Survey (SOEP), this paper assesses the relationship between life satisfaction and religious practice. The main new result here is longitudinal. It is shown that individuals who become more religious over time record long term gains in life satisfaction, while those who become less religious record long term losses. This result holds net of the effects of personality traits, and also in fixed effects panel models. The paper has significant implications for the dominant, paradigm theory in SWB research, namely set-point theory. This theory holds that the long term SWB of adult individuals is stable, because SWB depends on personality traits and other stable genetic factors. It is already clear from the German panel data that about 20% of the population have recorded large long term changes in SWB. New evidence in this paper and elsewhere about the effects of consciously chosen life goals, including religious ones, on SWB is hard to reconcile with set-point theory. It is more in line with authentic happiness theory.
    Keywords: SWB, life satisfaction, set-point theory, authentic happiness theory, longitudinal analysis, SOEP
    JEL: A12 A13 Y80 Z12
    Date: 2008
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp151&r=hap
  2. By: Kevin Milligan; Mark Stabile
    Abstract: A vast literature has examined the impact of family income on the health and development outcomes of children. One channel through which increased income may operate is an improvement in a family's ability to provide food, shelter, clothing, books, and other expenditure-related inputs to a child’s development. In addition to this channel, many scholars have investigated the relationship between income and the psychological wellbeing of the family. By reducing stress and conflict, more income helps to foster an environment more conducive to healthy child development. In this paper, we exploit changes in child benefits in Canada to study these questions. Importantly, our approach allows us to make stronger causal inferences than has been possible with the existing, mostly correlational, evidence. Using variation in child benefits across province, time, and family type, we study outcomes spanning test scores, mental health, physical health, and deprivation measures. The findings suggest that child benefit programs in Canada had significant positive effects on test scores, as has been featured in the existing literature. However, we also find that several measures of both child and maternal mental health and well-being show marked improvement with higher child benefits. We find strong and interesting differences in the effects of benefits by sex of the child: benefits have stronger effects on educational outcomes and physical health for boys, and on mental health outcomes for girls. Our findings also provide some support for the hypothesis that income transfers operate through measures of family emotional well-being.
    JEL: I1 I2
    Date: 2008–12
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14624&r=hap
  3. By: B. Douglas Bernheim
    Abstract: This paper discusses several competing proposals for general normative frameworks that would encompass non-standard models of choice. Most existing proposals equate welfare with well-being. Some assume that well-being flows from the achievement of well-defined objectives, and that those objectives also guide choices; the trick is to formulate a framework in which less-than-completely coherent choice patterns reveal the unobserved objectives. Others are predicated on the contention that well-being, and hence welfare, is directly measurable. Both of those approaches encounter serious conceptual difficulties. An alternative approach, developed by Bernheim and Rangel [2009], defines welfare directly in terms of choice. It entails a generalized welfare criterion that respects choice directly, without requiring any rationalization involving potentially unverifiable assumptions concerning underlying objectives and their relationships to choice. Because useful behavioral theories generally envision a substantial degree of underlying coherence in behavior, that criterion leads to a rich and tractable normative framework.
    JEL: D01 D60 H40
    Date: 2008–12
    URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14622&r=hap

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