Is the Just Man a Happy Man? An Empirical Study of the Relationship between Ethics and Subjective Well-Being
20 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2011
Date Written: May 2011
This paper uses data from the 2005-2006 wave of the World Values Survey to answer the question of whether ethical decision-making affects a person's happiness. Regression analyses focusing on the four largest economies in North and South America (the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil) reveal a generally positive relationship between ethics and happiness. In particular, respondents who do not justify unethical actions have higher reported well-being than those who are more accepting of such actions, after controlling for factors identified in the literature as important correlates of happiness and well-being. The effect of ethics on happiness 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.
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