nep-hap New Economics Papers
on Economics of Happiness
Issue of 2023‒08‒28
two papers chosen by
Viviana Di Giovinazzo, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca

  1. Were COVID and the Great Recession Well-being Reducing? By David G. Blanchflower; Alex Bryson
  2. Scitovsky Was Right…and There Is More: Comfort Goods, Stimulus Goods, Education and Subjective Wellbeing By Leonardo Becchetti; Chiara Lubicz

  1. By: David G. Blanchflower; Alex Bryson
    Abstract: We show individuals’ reports of subjective well being in Europe did decline in the Great Recession and during the Covid pandemic on most measures and on four bordering countries to Ukraine after the Russian invasion in 2022. However, the movements are not large and are not apparent everywhere. We also used data from the European Commission's Business and Consumer Surveys on people’s expectations of life in general, their financial situation and the economic and employment situation in the country, all of which dropped markedly in the Great Recession and during Covid, but bounced back quickly, as did firms’ expectations of the economy and the labor market. Neither the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) nor data used in the World Happiness Report from the Gallup World Poll shifted much in response to negative shocks. The HDI has been rising in the last decade or so reflecting overall improvements in economic and social wellbeing, captured in part by real earnings growth, although it fell slightly after 2020 as life expectancy dipped. This secular improvement is mirrored in life satisfaction which has been rising in the last decade. However, so too have negative affect in Europe and despair in the USA
    JEL: I31
    Date: 2023–07
  2. By: Leonardo Becchetti (CEIS & DEF, University of Rome "Tor Vergata"); Chiara Lubicz (University of Rome "Tor Vergata")
    Abstract: A main legacy of Scitovsky’ thought is the identification of the conflict between comfort and stimulus goods. Comfort goods are material goods that relieve pain or stress and produce temporary pleasure but can create dependence and addiction. They thereby weaken the development of skills needed to access stimulus goods that produce in turn a longer run positive and significant effect on subjective wellbeing, by satisfying the taste for variety, complexity and curiosity. The effect of stimulus goods tends to be permanent and less subject to satiation and hedonic adaptation, differently from comfort goods. We identify proxies of comfort and stimulus goods and test the Scitovsky hypothesis. Our findings do not reject the hypothesis of the opposite effect of comfort and stimulus goods on subjective wellbeing, and, consistently with Scitovsky’s view, identify the transmission channel in the capacity of stimulus goods of contributing to learn new things, relieving us from boredom and making us interested and absorbed most of time in everyday life.
    Keywords: comfort goods, stimulus goods, life satisfaction
    Date: 2023–07–31

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