Happiness of Economists

35 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2014

See all articles by Lars P. Feld

Lars P. Feld

Walter Eucken Institute

Sarah Necker

University of Freiburg

Bruno S. Frey

CREMA; University of Basel

Date Written: December 18, 2014


We study the importance of economists’ professional situation toward their life satisfaction based on a unique survey of mostly academic economists. On average, economists report to be highly happy with life. Satisfaction is positively related to spending more time on doing research. The lack of a tenured position decreases satisfaction. However, the extent to which the uncertainty created by the tenure system affects satisfaction varies with the contract terms. The effect is stronger if the contract expires in the near future or cannot be extended. Publication success has no effect if it is controlled for academic rank and the contract duration. The finding suggests that publications are rather a means to an end, e.g., to acquire a tenured position. While the perceived level of external pressure also has no impact, the perceived change of pressure in recent years is positively related to economists’ life satisfaction. An explanation is that economists have accepted a high level of pressure when entering academia but are not willing to cope with the recent increase.

Keywords: happiness, academic labor market, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, publish or perish

JEL Classification: I310, A110, J280

Suggested Citation

Feld, Lars P. and Necker, Sarah and Frey, Bruno S., Happiness of Economists (December 18, 2014). CESifo Working Paper Series No. 5099, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2540019 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2540019

Lars P. Feld

Walter Eucken Institute ( email )

Goethestrasse 10
Freiburg im Breisgau, Baden-Württemberg D-79100

Sarah Necker (Contact Author)

University of Freiburg ( email )

Freiburg, D-79085

Bruno S. Frey

CREMA ( email )

Südstrasse 11
Zurich, CH 8008
+41 44 380 00 78 (Phone)

University of Basel ( email )

Peter Merian-Weg 6
Basel, 4002

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