nep-hap New Economics Papers
on Economics of Happiness
Issue of 2018‒09‒17
four papers chosen by
Viviana Di Giovinazzo
Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca

  1. It's Not Going to Be That Fun: Negative Experiences Can Add Meaning to Life By Vohs, Kathleen D.; Aaker, Jennifer; Catapano, Rhia
  2. The Effects of Maternal Depression on Nine-Year-Old Children’s Behavior, Physical Health, and Cognition By Christine Porr; Kelly Noonan
  3. Does Happiness Pay Revisited – New Evidence from the U.S.A. By Carol Graham; Diana Liu
  4. The (Short-term) Individual Welfare Consequences of an Alcohol Ban By René Petilliot

  1. By: Vohs, Kathleen D. (University of Minnesota); Aaker, Jennifer (Stanford University); Catapano, Rhia (Stanford University)
    Abstract: People seek to spend time in positive experiences, enjoying and savoring. Yet there is no escaping negative experiences, from the mundane (e.g., arguing) to the massive (e.g., death of a child). Might negative experiences confer a hidden benefit to well-being? We propose that they do, in the form of enhanced meaning in life. Research suggests that negative experiences can serve to boost meaning because they stimulate comprehension (understanding how the event fits into a broader narrative of the self, relationships, and the world), a known pillar of meaning in life. Findings on counterfactual thinking, reflecting on events' implications, and encompassing experiences into broad-based accounts of one's identity support the role of comprehension in contributing to life's meaning from unwanted, unwelcome experiences.
    Date: 2018–04
  2. By: Christine Porr (Princeton University); Kelly Noonan (Princeton University)
    Abstract: This paper investigates the effects of maternal depression, including its occurrence and chronicity, on nine-year-old children’s behavior, physical health, and cognition, as well as the extent to which five mechanisms explain the association between maternal depression’s chronicity and these outcomes. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), we conduct this analysis with ordinary least squares (OLS), instrumental variable (IV), and Lewbel IV regression models. We find that maternal depression significantly negatively impacts children’s behavior and physical health at age nine, while its relationship to their cognition remains ambiguous. These demonstrated effects increase in magnitude and significance with depression’s chronicity. Estimates indicate that economic hardship explains a significant portion of the association between maternal depression and all three categories of child outcomes, while mothering behaviors, co-parenting, and maternal health also play an important role for some outcomes. These findings provide support for potential policies for identifying depression early in its course, making appropriate treatment more financially viable for all individuals, and assisting children at-risk for or already suffering from behavioral and physical health problems.
    JEL: D19 D60 I00 J12 J13
    Date: 2018
  3. By: Carol Graham (The Brookings Institution); Diana Liu (The Gallup Organization)
    Abstract: In this paper, we revisit our 2004 paper that found a strong positive association between happiness and future outcomes, based on data for Russia in the years 1995-2000. This paper takes advantage of a new Gallup panel for the U.S. for 2014-2016. We essentially duplicate our original method, and add some new specifications. We find remarkably similar patterns and associations between initial period happiness and later period outcomes in the U.S., based on a very different time and sample from Russia in the 1990’s. We believe that duplicating the earlier findings in a very different time and place is an important test of how robust this association is. We also find some new twists in the initial patterns that are interesting in their own right. The aim here is not only to show that the causality does not just run from the usual variables to higher or lower levels of well-being, but that the traits that subjective well-being metrics capture, such as happiness and hope, have their own independent role in the outcomes of the lives of myriad individuals around the world.
    Keywords: well-being, happiness
    JEL: D31 I31 J39
    Date: 2018–09
  4. By: René Petilliot
    Abstract: This paper provides the first empirical analysis of the (short-term) welfare consequences of an alcohol ban. Using subjective well-being data to proxy individual welfare, I apply a regression discontinuity design where the date of the implementation of the ban in the German federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg functions as discontinuity. I find that the ban reduces life satisfaction of the total population and the subpopulation of drinkers, while life satisfaction of nondrinkers is unaffected. My findings are well in line with the rational addiction model perspective.
    Keywords: Alcohol ban, Well-being, Life satisfaction, Welfare, Addiction, Regression discontinuity design
    JEL: D04 D60 H30 I31
    Date: 2018

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