Comparing Life Satisfaction

47 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2009

See all articles by Arie Kapteyn

Arie Kapteyn

Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research - University of Southern California; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

James P. Smith

RAND Corporation; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Arthur van Soest

Tilburg University; Netspar; RAND Corporation; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Date Written: October 22, 2009

Abstract

This paper analyzes the determinants of global life satisfaction in two countries (The Netherlands and the U.S.), by using both self-reports and responses to a battery of vignette questions. The authors find global life satisfaction of happiness is well-described by four domains: job or daily activities, social contacts and family, health, and income. Among the four domains, social contacts and family have the highest impact on global life satisfaction, followed by job and daily activities and health. Income has the lowest impact. As in other work, they find that American response styles differ from the Dutch in that Americans are more likely to use the extremes of the scale (either very satisfied or very dissatisfied) than the Dutch, who are more inclined to stay in the middle of the scale. Although for both Americans and the Dutch, income is the least important determinant of global life satisfaction, it is more important in the U.S. than in The Netherlands. Indeed life satisfaction varies substantially more with income in the U.S. than in The Netherlands.

Keywords: happiness, life satisfaction, vignettes, reporting bias

JEL Classification: I31, J28, D31

Suggested Citation

Kapteyn, Arie and Smith, James P. and van Soest, Arthur H. O., Comparing Life Satisfaction (October 22, 2009). RAND Working Paper No. WR-623-1. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1289423 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1289423

Arie Kapteyn (Contact Author)

Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research - University of Southern California ( email )

635 Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3332
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310-448-5383 (Phone)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

P.O. Box 7240
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James P. Smith

RAND Corporation ( email )

P.O. Box 2138
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Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Arthur H. O. van Soest

Tilburg University ( email )

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, DC 5000 LE
Netherlands

Netspar

P.O. Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE
Netherlands

RAND Corporation ( email )

P.O. Box 2138
1776 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90407-2138
United States

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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