nep-hap New Economics Papers
on Economics of Happiness
Issue of 2023‒02‒27
three papers chosen by

  1. Home alone: Widows' Well-Being and Time By Maja Adena; Daniel Hamermesh; Michal Myck; Monika Oczkowska
  2. Explaining Happiness Trends in Europe By Easterlin, Richard A.; O'Connor, Kelsey J.
  3. Thorstein Veblen, The Meaning of Work, and its Humanization By Jon D. Wisman

  1. By: Maja Adena (WZB Berlin); Daniel Hamermesh (University of Texas at Austin); Michal Myck (Centre for Economic Analysis); Monika Oczkowska (Centre for Economic Analysis)
    Abstract: Using data from the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE, 2004-17) and time diaries from Poland (2013), the U.S. (2006-16), the U.K. (2014-15) and France (2009-10), we examine differences between widowed and partnered older women in well-being and its development in widowhood. Most importantly, our analysis accounts for time use, an aspect which has not been studied previously. We trace the evolution of well-being of women who become widowed by comparing them with their matched non-widowed ‘statistical twins’ and examine the role of an exceptionally broad set of potential moderators of widowhood’s impact on well-being. We confirm a dramatic decrease in mental health and life satisfaction after the loss of partner, followed by a slow partial recovery over a five-year period. An extensive set of controls recorded prior to widowhood, including detailed family ties and social networks, provides little help in explaining the deterioration in well-being. Unique data from time-diaries kept by older women in several European countries and the U.S. tell us why: the key factor behind widows’ reduced well-being is increased time spent alone.
    Keywords: widowhood; well-being; social networks; time use;
    JEL: I31 I19 J14
    Date: 2023–01–20
  2. By: Easterlin, Richard A. (University of Southern California); O'Connor, Kelsey J. (STATEC Research – National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies)
    Abstract: In Europe differences among countries in the overall change in happiness since the early 1980s have been due chiefly to the generosity of welfare state programs— increasing happiness going with increasing generosity and declining happiness with declining generosity. This is the principal conclusion from a time series study of ten Northern, Western, and Southern European countries with the requisite data. In the present study cross-section analysis of recent data gives a misleading impression that economic growth, social capital, and / or quality of the environment are driving happiness trends, but in the long-term time-series data these variables have no relation to happiness. Significance: Over the past five decades happiness has emerged as a subject of social science research and a potential goal of public policy. But how can a country's happiness be increased? On this, there is a conflict between a number of policy alternatives – promote economic growth, increase social capital, improve the environment, expand welfare state programs. Each of these has point-of-time (cross-section) evidence supporting its claim, but there are very few long-term time-series studies. This article presents newly available time-series evidence that supports the importance of welfare state policies.
    Keywords: economic growth, happiness, life satisfaction, subjective well-being, long-term, welfare programs, social capital, trust, quality of environment, cross section, time series, Europe, Easterlin Paradox
    JEL: I31 I38 D60 O10 Q53 Z13
    Date: 2023–01
  3. By: Jon D. Wisman
    Abstract: Thorstein Veblen gave special attention to work. He claimed that an instinct of workmanship " present in all men, and asserts itself even under very adverse circumstances... [It] is the court of final appeal in any question of economic truth or adequacy." Although many scholars have examined Veblen's claim, this article differs by examining his conception of work in light of findings from anthropology, evolutionary psychology, and happiness research. The questions explored are: Why and how did Veblen understand work as instinctual and did his understanding conform to Charles Darwin's concept of instincts? Is it an instinct that evolved to be pleasurable or to gain respect and status to motivate provisioning? If evidence supports the claim that work did indeed evolve to be pleasurable, and today much of it is not, then its restructuring should be a top social priority. Although Veblen's understanding of work provides inadequate guidance as to how it should be restructured, he was pathbreaking in insisting that our understanding of this question, and of human behavior and society more generally, must be grounded in the evolutionary biology launched by Darwin. Accordingly, a second aim of this article is to offer support for Veblen's attempt to do so.
    Keywords: instinct of workmanship; Darwinism; institutions; anthropology of work; happiness; research
    JEL: A13 B15 Z10
    Date: 2023

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