nep-hap New Economics Papers
on Economics of Happiness
Issue of 2019‒01‒28
four papers chosen by
Viviana Di Giovinazzo
Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca

  1. Historical Analysis of National Subjective Wellbeing using millions of Digitized Books By Hills, Thomas; Proto, Eugenio; Sgroi, Daniel
  2. Walls of Glass: Measuring Deprivation in Social Participation By Nicolai Suppa
  3. A Social Cure for Social Comparisons By Stefano Bartolini; Marcin Piekalkiewicz; Francesco Sarracino
  4. The Empirical Content of Marital Surplus in Matching Models By Karina Doorley; Arnaud Dupuy; Simon Weber

  1. By: Hills, Thomas (Department of Psychology, University of Warwick); Proto, Eugenio (Department of Economics, University of Warwick, CAGE and IZA); Sgroi, Daniel (Department of Economics, University of Warwick, CAGE and Nuffield College, University of Oxford)
    Abstract: We develop a new way to measure national subjective well-being across the very long run where traditional survey data on well-being is not available. Our method is based on quantitative analysis of digitized text from millions of books published over the past 200 years, long before the widespread availability of consistent survey data. The method uses psychological valence norms for thousands of words in different languages to compute the relative proportion of positive and negative language for four different nations (the USA, UK, Germany and Italy). We validate our measure against existing survey data from the 1970s onwards (when such data became available) showing that our measure is highly correlated with surveyed life satisfaction. We also validate our measure against historical trends in longevity and GDP (showing a positive relationship) and conflict (showing a negative relationship). Our measure allows a first look at changes in subjective well-being over the past two centuries, for instance highlighting the dramatic fall in well-being during the two World Wars and rise in relation to longevity.
    Keywords: historical subjective well-being ; language ; big data ; GDP ; conflict
    JEL: N3 N4 O1 D6
    Date: 2019
  2. By: Nicolai Suppa
    Abstract: This paper proposes a measure for deprivation in social participation, an important but so far neglected dimension of human well-being. Operationalisation and empirical implementation of the measure are conceptually guided by the capability approach. Essentially, the paper argues that deprivation in social participation can be convincingly established by drawing on extensive non-participation in customary social activities. In doing so, the present paper synthesizes philosophical considerations, axiomatic research on poverty and deprivation, and previous empirical research on social exclusion and subjective well-being. An application using high-quality German survey data supports the measure’s validity. Specifically, the results suggest, as theoretically expected, that the proposed measure is systematically different from related concepts like material deprivation and income poverty. Moreover, regression techniques reveal deprivation in social participation to reduce life satisfaction substantially, quantitatively similar to unemployment. Finally, questions like preference vs. deprivation, cross-country comparisons, and the measure’s suitability as a social indicator are discussed.
    Keywords: Social participation, capability approach, deprivation, life satisfaction, multidimensional poverty, SOEP
    Date: 2018
  3. By: Stefano Bartolini; Marcin Piekalkiewicz; Francesco Sarracino
    Abstract: Social comparisons have severe negative consequences for happiness, health, and economic decisions. Is there a remedy? Some research suggests that social comparisons are intrinsic human characteristics rooted in the biology of the brain. We offer a different view based on approximately half a million interviews from nationally representative surveys. Specifically, we assess whether people with thriving social lives suffer less from social comparisons than others. Controlling for demographic factors, we find that isolated people are more likely to be concerned about whether they earn more or less than others. Conversely, the well-being of individuals with rich social lives does not depend on keeping up with the Joneses. This result is reflected at the country level: in countries that are socially flourishing, the differences in well-being between income groups are small, which is a consequence of the relatively small impact of income comparisons on well-being. This evidence suggests that social relations can be a cure for social comparisons. We discuss a few policies to promote social relations, relating to education reform, urban planning, and advertising regulation.
    JEL: I31 Z18 I18
    Date: 2019–01
  4. By: Karina Doorley; Arnaud Dupuy; Simon Weber
    Abstract: This note investigates the extent to which structural estimates of marital surplus are informative about subjective well-being and separation. We first estimate the marital surplus using a simple matching model of the marriage market with perfectly transferable utility and heterogeneity in tastes applied to a rich German panel dataset. We then show that these estimates of the marital surplus are negatively correlated with separation and the difference in spouses’ subjective satisfaction.
    Keywords: Matching market, marital surplus, subjective well-being, separation
    Date: 2018

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