Subjective and Objective Indicators of Racial Progress

40 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2011

See all articles by Betsey Stevenson

Betsey Stevenson

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

Justin Wolfers

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; The University of Sydney - Discipline of Economics; Brookings Institution - Economic Studies Program; Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Kiel Institute for the World Economy

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Date Written: July, 12 2011

Abstract

Typical measures of racial progress focus on objectively measurable changes in economic conditions - employment opportunities, income, education. These indicators tell a story of ongoing, albeit frustratingly slow, progress. In this paper, we focus instead on measures of subjective wellbeing. These data suggest a far greater degree of progress, largely because the racial gap that existed back in the 1970s was astonishingly large. We find that the well-being of blacks has increased both absolutely and relative to whites. These changes in well-being are found across various datasets and measures of subjective well-being. However the gains in happiness are concentrated among women and those living in the south. While the opportunities and achievements of blacks have improved over this period, the happiness gains far exceed that which can be attributed to these objective improvements.

Keywords: Subjective well-being, life satisfaction, happiness, race, discrimination, civil rights

JEL Classification: D6, I32, J1, J7, K1

Suggested Citation

Stevenson, Betsey and Wolfers, Justin, Subjective and Objective Indicators of Racial Progress (July, 12 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1884635 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1884635

Betsey Stevenson (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

500 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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Justin Wolfers

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers

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HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers

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Brookings Institution - Economic Studies Program ( email )

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Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics ( email )

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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Kiel Institute for the World Economy ( email )

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