nep-hap New Economics Papers
on Economics of Happiness
Issue of 2009‒12‒05
eight papers chosen by
Viviana Di Giovinazzo
University of Milano-Bicocca

  1. Creative Destruction, Economic Insecurity, Stress and Epidemic Obesity By Jon D. Wisman; Kevin Capehart
  2. The Public Finance of Healthy Behavior By Robert Rosenman
  3. The Reliability of Matches in the 2002-2004 Vietnam Household Living Standards Survey Panel By Brian McCaig
  4. Parental Investment in Children: Differential Pathways of Parental Education and Mental Health By Chikako Yamauchi
  5. The Availability of Child Care Centers, Perceived Search Costs and Parental Life Satisfaction By Chikako Yamauchi
  6. An Economic Vulnerability Index: Its Design and Use for International Development Policy By Patrick GUILLAUMONT
  7. State fragility and economic vulnerability: what is measured and why? By Patrick GUILLAUMONT; Sylviane GUILLAUMONT JEANNENEY
  8. Work status and family planning: insights from the Italian puzzle By Sabatini, Fabio

  1. By: Jon D. Wisman; Kevin Capehart
    Abstract: The percentage of Americans who are obese has doubled since 1980. Most attempts to explain this "obesity epidemic" have been found inadequate, including the "Big Two" (the increased availability of inexpensive food and the decline of physical exertion). This article explores the possibility that the obesity epidemic is substantially due to growing insecurity, stress, and a sense of powerlessness in modern society where high-sugar and high-fat foods are increasingly omnipresent. Those suffering these conditions may suffer less control over other domains of their lives. Insecurity and stress have been found to increase the desire for high-fat and high sugar foods. After exploring the evidence of a link between stress and obesity, the increasing pace of capitalism's creative destruction and its generation of greater insecurity and stress are addressed. The article ends with reflections on how epidemic obesity is symptomatic of a social mistake –- the seeking of maximum efficiency and economic growth even in societies where the fundamental problem of material security has been solved.
    Keywords: Social gradient obesity, endogenous preferences, cortisol, inequality, thrifty genes, rational choice model
    Date: 2009–08
  2. By: Robert Rosenman (School of Economic Sciences, Washington State University)
    Abstract: Lifestyle can often affect the likelihood an individual will have a future illness. Subsidies often mitigate the consequences of poor lifestyle choices. In this paper we explore tax-subsidy policies that lower the consequences of incurring a non-infectious disease. We find that a funding mechanism consistent with current US policy lowers the investment in healthy lifestyles by both the wealthy, who pay taxes, and the poor, who receive subsidies. We also explore alternative policy interventions such as investing in research to lessen the impact or probability of the disease if an individual gets sick.
    Keywords: lifestyle, health, policy, non-infectious diseases
    JEL: I1 H2 H4
    Date: 2009–07
  3. By: Brian McCaig
    Abstract: Tracking households and individuals over time is important for a variety of research and policy questions. Exploring the validity of matched household and individuals within a dataset is a necessary step for ensuring the reliability of analysis designed to address such questions. This paper examines the quality of matching in the household panel between the 2002 and 2004 Vietnam Household Living Standards Surveys (VHLSS). Of the original 4,476 matches suggested in the household datasets, 429 matches are found to be incorrect, almost ten percent of total matches. Revised matches are suggested for 402 of these mismatches. Two simple applications illustrate the potential problems associated with analysis conducted using a poorly matched panel. The original panel overestimates the frequency of changes in household size. It also leads to biased estimates of per capita consumption growth, as it overestimates growth for poor households and underestimates growth for rich households.
    Keywords: Vietnam Household Living Standards Survey, household panel
    JEL: C8 O12
    Date: 2009–09
  4. By: Chikako Yamauchi
    Abstract: This paper examines pathways through which parental characteristics might affect children’s cognitive and behavioural outcomes. Using the 2004 LSAC, I show that more educated and mentally healthier parents are likely to have children with better outcomes. While educated parents are more frequently engaged in education-oriented activities with their children, mentally healthier parents exhibit more favourable parenting practices. To the extent that these results reflect causal relationships, they suggest that parental education and mental health affect children’s outcomes through different pathways.
    Keywords: parental education, parental mental health, test score, behavioural outcome, parenting
    JEL: D1 I2 J2
    Date: 2009–09
  5. By: Chikako Yamauchi
    Abstract: The supply of formal childcare has expanded in many developed countries. There is ambiguity, however, in the theory that the entry of care providers increases consumers’ surplus and the welfare of households in a market with differentiated services, such as childcare. This study empirically investigates how perceived search costs and parental life satisfaction change when actual childcare availability is altered. It exploits the new panel data from Australia on the number of center-based childcare places per 100 children within a household’s residential area. The results show that an increase in the availability of centerbased childcare is associated with a decrease in perceived difficulty in finding ‘good quality’ childcare, as well as an improvement in mothers’ satisfaction with the increased availability of free time. These findings imply that the local availability of center-based childcare has enhanced the subjective well-being of parents.
    Keywords: child care, entry, search, consumers’ surplus, life satisfaction
    JEL: J13 J22
    Date: 2009–09
  6. By: Patrick GUILLAUMONT (Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches sur le Développement International)
    Abstract: In response to the need expressed by the UN General Assembly, an economic vulnerability index (EVI) has been defined by the Committee for Development Policy. The present paper, which refers to this index, first examines how a structural economic vulnerability index can be designed for the low-income countries in particular. It recalls the conceptual and empirical grounds of the index, considers the structure of the present EVI, its sensitivity to methodological choices with respect to averaging, as well as related possible improvements, and briefly compares the levels and trends of EVI in various country groups, using a new database from a ‘retrospective EVI'. The paper examines how EVI can be used for international development policy, underlining two main purposes: first—the purpose for which EVI was initially designed—is the identification of the least developed countries (LDCs) that are allowed to receive some preferential treatment in aid and trade matters. EVI, in addition to income per capita and human capital, is one of the three complementary criteria a country needs to meet in order to be perceived as a LDC, and consequently it cannot be the sole criterion for countries wishing to avoid exiting the LDC list. And second, EVI is to be used, in addition to other traditional measures, as a criterion for aid allocation between developing countries. We argue that such an inclusion is legitimate for both reasons of effectiveness and equity. The two purposes are presented as complementary.
    Keywords: aid allocation, human capital, least development countries, vulnerability
    Date: 2009
  7. By: Patrick GUILLAUMONT (Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches sur le Développement International); Sylviane GUILLAUMONT JEANNENEY (Centre d'Etudes et de Recherches sur le Développement International)
    Abstract: State fragility is a concept that emerged among the international community of donors in order to adapt aid policies to particularly difficult situations. Fragility has thus been measured to design a special treatment in favour of fragile states, otherwise left behind. In this context, but somewhat paradoxically, fragility has been measured by a low policy and institutional assessment, operated through the "CPIA", in the multilateral development banks that also used this index as the major indicator to determine their aid allocation. Some other more multidimensional measures have broadened the scope of the indicators used to identify fragility. All these measures appear to be rather subjective, unstable, leading to discordant lists of fragile states and not really representing a risk to fail. For analytical and operational reasons, there may be advantages of turning to the concept of structural economic vulnerability (apparently close, but strongly different). Structural economic vulnerability, the risk to be durably affected by exogenous shocks, depends both on the size of the shocks and on the exposure to the shocks. It can be measured by the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI), set up at the UN to identify the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). It is a rather objective and stable index, also reflecting a risk of becoming a fragile state, as illustrated by the fact that most of the LDCs have been considered as fragile at least once. Such an index can be used as a positive criterion of aid allocation, besides the CPIA, a low income per capita and a low level of human capital. Its inclusion among aid allocation criteria is supported by equity, effectiveness and transparency reasons. It allows one to treat the case of fragile states in an integrated framework, leaving only the most acute cases of fragility or failure for an exceptional treatment.
    Keywords: State Fragility, aid policies
    Date: 2009
  8. By: Sabatini, Fabio
    Abstract: This paper uses a dataset built by the author on the basis of raw data taken from different national surveys to carry out an investigation into the socio-economic determinants of couples’ childbearing decisions in Italy. Since having children is in most cases a “couple matter”, the analysis accounts for the characteristics of both the aspiring parents. Our results contradict theoretical predictions according to which the increase in the opportunity cost of motherhood connected to higher female labour participation is responsible for the fall in fertility. On the contrary, the instability of the women’s work status (i.e. their being occasional, precarious, and low-paid workers) reveals to be a significant and strong dissuasive deterrent discouraging the decision to have children. Couples with unemployed women are less likely to plan childbearing as well. Other relevant explanatory variables are age, current family size, and the strength of family ties.
    Keywords: Fertility; Family planning; Childbearing; Labour market; Female participation; Labour precariousness; Social capital; Italy
    JEL: J13 J21 Z13 J24
    Date: 2009–11–24

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