Subjective and Objective Indicators of Racial Progress

40 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2013

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: March 2013

Abstract

Progress in closing differences in many objective outcomes for blacks relative to whites has slowed, and even worsened, over the past three decades. However, over this period the racial gap in well-being has shrunk. In the early 1970s data revealed much lower levels of subjective well-being among blacks relative to whites. Investigating various measures of well-being, we find that the well-being of blacks has increased both absolutely and relative to that of whites. While a racial gap in well-being remains, two-fifths of the gap has closed and these gains have occurred despite little progress in closing other racial gaps such as those in income, employment, and education. Much of the current racial gap in well-being can be explained by differences in the objective conditions of the lives of black and white Americans. Thus making further progress will likely require progress in closing racial gaps in objective circumstances.

Keywords: happiness, life satisfaction, race, Subjective well-being

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

Suggested Citation

Stevenson, Betsey and Wolfers, Justin, Subjective and Objective Indicators of Racial Progress (March 2013). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP9408, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2244088

Betsey Stevenson (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ( email )

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Justin Wolfers

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