Is the Just Man a Happy Man? An Empirical Study of the Relationship Between Ethics and Subjective Well-Being

University of Missouri Department of Agricultural Economics Working Paper No. AEWP 2009-07

29 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2009

See all articles by Harvey S. James, Jr.

Harvey S. James, Jr.

University of Missouri at Columbia - Division of Applied Social Sciences

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Date Written: December 2, 2009

Abstract

In this paper, I consider the question of whether ethical decision-making affects a person’s happiness. Using cross-country data from the World Values Survey, I find that people who agree that it is never justifiable to engage in ethically-questionable behaviors report that they are more satisfied with their life than people who are more tolerant of unethical conduct, even after controlling for other factors known to affect self-reported happiness. The size of the ethics effect is roughly similar to that of a modest increase in income, being married and attending church, while the effect is smaller than that of having poor health or being dissatisfied with one’s personal finances. These results are robust across the four countries studied (the US, Canada, Mexico and Brazil), although there is variation in the ethics and happiness relationship across countries. One implication of this study is that a consideration of a society’s ethical norms will improve our understanding of the subjective well-being of people.

Keywords: Happiness, subjective well-being, ethics, World Values Survey

JEL Classification: D63, D99, Z13

Suggested Citation

James, Harvey S., Is the Just Man a Happy Man? An Empirical Study of the Relationship Between Ethics and Subjective Well-Being (December 2, 2009). University of Missouri Department of Agricultural Economics Working Paper No. AEWP 2009-07, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1517470 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1517470

Harvey S. James (Contact Author)

University of Missouri at Columbia - Division of Applied Social Sciences ( email )

Columbia, MO
United States
573-884-9682 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://hsjames2.wordpress.com

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