New Economics Papers
on Economics of Happiness
Issue of 2009‒01‒17
eight papers chosen by

  1. His and Hers: Exploring Gender Puzzles and the Meaning of Life Satisfaction By Marina Della Giusta; Uma Kambhampati
  2. Positional goods… or positional people? Implications for taxation and happiness By Colin Ash; J. Malcolm Dowlinga
  3. Happiness and Economics: A Buddhist Perspective By Colin Ash
  4. Let us pray: religious interactions in life satisfaction By Andrew E. Clark; Orsolya Lelkes
  5. Boon or Bane? : Others' Unemployment, Well-being and Job Insecurity By Andrew Clark; Andreas Knabe; Steffen Rätzel
  6. If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands! Survey design and the analysis of satisfaction By Conti G; Pudney S
  7. Does size matter? The influence of firm size on working conditions and job satisfaction By Garcia-serrano C
  8. Life (evaluation), HIV/AIDS, and Death in Africa By Angus Deaton; Jane Fortson; Robert Tortora

  1. By: Marina Della Giusta (School of Economics, University of Reading); Uma Kambhampati (School of Economics, University of Reading)
    Abstract: Our paper contributes to current debates around work-life balance and the efficiency and wellbeing costs associated with different models of work and childcare (Gregory and Connolly, 2008). It also contributes from a gender perspective to the life satisfaction literature by providing a test for the hypothesis that women and men with children attribute different meanings to overall life satisfaction. We begin by presenting a conventional model of life satisfaction for British parents in wave 8 of the British Household Panel Survey which includes childcare arrangements; and move on to discuss the possibility that women and men have a different understanding of what matters in life and what constitutes life satisfaction, and accordingly we explore the role of dimensions of life satisfaction in overall life satisfaction. Finally, we try to account for observed differences between women and men and explain some of the paradoxes encountered in the literature on women and work-life balance, and on policy based on happiness scores.
    Date: 2008
  2. By: Colin Ash (Department of Economics, University of Reading); J. Malcolm Dowlinga
    Abstract: We report the results of surveys on positional concerns for income and leisure. The results confirm earlier evidence that a majority of people are positional regarding income. We also look at the distribution of both these positional concerns among our respondents, something which has not previously been investigated. Our findings point to the need for a more subtle approach than has previously been proposed for using taxation to correct distortions in the income-leisure choice.
    Keywords: Positional concerns; Relative income; Leisure; Taxation
    JEL: D0 D1 D63 H21
    Date: 2008
  3. By: Colin Ash (Department of Economics, University of Reading)
    Abstract: Economics and particularly economic policy often seems to focus almost exclusively on the growth of income and creation of wealth. However economists have always viewed Gross National Product (GNP) as an imperfect measure of human welfare. Recent research on subjective well-being (happiness) consistently confirms that there are diminishing marginal returns to income. Once basic material needs are satisfied, happiness responds more to interpersonal relationships than to income. One’s personal values and philosophy of life also matter, as do strategies and techniques for mood control and raising each individual’s baseline or set-point level of happiness. This paper briefly summarises the research findings which have led to this gradual and ongoing shift of focus. Then we take a Buddhist perspective on happiness and economics. Many of the recent research findings are consistent with Buddhist analysis, particularly its analysis of the conditioning process leading to unhappiness. Furthermore, Buddhist practices provide skilful means for the mind to control the mood. The paper ends, however, on a cautionary note: in what sense, if any, is the “greatest happiness” the Buddhist goal?
    Keywords: income; happiness; Buddhism
    Date: 2008
  4. By: Andrew E. Clark; Orsolya Lelkes
    Abstract: We use recent pooled survey data on 90 000 individuals in 26 European countries to examine religious spillover effects on life satisfaction. Own religious behaviour is positively correlated with individual life satisfaction. More unusually, average religiosity in the region also has a positive impact: people are more satisfied in more religious regions. This spillover holds both for those who are religious and for those who are not. The flipside of the coin is that a greater proportion of "atheists" (those who say they do not currently belong to any religious denomination) has negative spillover effects, for the religious and atheists alike. We last show that both Protestants and Catholics like to live in regions where their own religion is dominant, while Protestants are also more satisfied when Catholics dominate. The generic positive spillover effect of others' religion is not explained by social capital, crime, or trust.
    Date: 2009
  5. By: Andrew Clark; Andreas Knabe; Steffen Rätzel
    Abstract: The social norm of unemployment suggests that aggregate unemployment reduces the wellbeing of the employed, but has a far smaller effect on the unemployed. We use German panel data to reproduce this standard result, but then suggest that the appropriate distinction may not be between employment and unemployment, but rather between higher and lower levels of labour-market security. Those with good job prospects, both employed and unemployed, are strongly negatively affected by regional unemployment. However, the insecure employed and the poor-prospect unemployed are less negatively, or even positively, affected. We use our results to analyse labour-market inequality and unemployment hysteresis.
    Keywords: Unemployment, Externalities, Job Insecurity, Well-Being
    JEL: D84 J60
    Date: 2008
  6. By: Conti G (Department of Economics, University of Chicago); Pudney S (Institute for Social and Economic Research)
    Abstract: Surveys differ in the way they measure satisfaction and happiness, so comparative research findings are vulnerable to distortion by survey design differences. We examine this using the British Household Panel Survey, exploiting its changes in question design and parallel use of different interview modes. We find significant biases in econometric results, particularly for gender differences in attitudes to the wage and hours of work. Results suggest that the common empirical finding that women care less than men about their wage and more about their hours may be an artifact of survey design rather than a real behavioural difference.
    Date: 2008–12–01
  7. By: Garcia-serrano C (Universidad de Alcalá)
    Abstract: Using a Spanish survey, this paper investigates the relationship between firm size and working conditions, and whether firm size differences in workersÂ’ job satisfaction can be accounted for by differences in their work environment. The results indicate that: (1) workers in larger firms have a significantly lower level of autonomy and, in general, face worse working conditions; (2) working in large firms has no statistically significant effect on job satisfaction after controlling for working conditions; and (3) no systematic differences exist in worker mobility across firm-size categories. We conclude that observed wage differentials by firm size are utility-equalizing, so they are due to differences in working conditions.
    Date: 2008–09–22
  8. By: Angus Deaton; Jane Fortson; Robert Tortora
    Abstract: We use data from the Gallup World Poll and from the Demographic and Health Surveys to investigate how subjective wellbeing (SWB) is affected by mortality in sub-Saharan Africa, including mortality from HIV/AIDS. The Gallup data provide direct evidence on Africans' own emotional and evaluative responses to high levels of infection and of mortality. By comparing the effect of mortality on SWB with the effect of income on SWB, we can attach monetary values to mortality to illuminate the often controversial question of how to value life in Africa. Large fractions of the respondents in the World Poll report the mortality of an immediate family member in the last twelve months, with malaria typically more important than AIDS, and deaths of women in childbirth more important than deaths from AIDS in many countries. A life evaluation measure (Cantril's ladder of life) is relatively insensitive to the deaths of immediate family, which suggests a low value of life. There are much larger effects on experiential measures, such as sadness and depression, which suggest much larger values of life. It is not clear whether either of these results is correct, yet our results demonstrate that experiential and evaluative measures are not the same thing, and that they cannot be used interchangeably as measures of "happiness" in welfare economics.
    JEL: I12 J17 O15
    Date: 2009–01

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