Historical Analysis of National Subjective Wellbeing Using Millions of Digitized Books

25 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2015

See all articles by Eugenio Proto

Eugenio Proto

University of Glasgow; IZA Institute of Labor Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Daniel Sgroi

University of Warwick - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Abstract

We present the first attempt to construct a long-run historical measure of subjective wellbeing using language corpora derived from millions of digitized books. While existing measures of subjective wellbeing go back to at most the 1970s, we can go back at least 200 years further using our methods. We analyse data for six countries (the USA, UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain). To highlight some results, we find a positive short-run effect for GDP and life expectancy on subjective wellbeing. An increase of 1% life expectancy is equivalent to more than 5% increase in yearly GDP. One year of internal conflict costs the equivalent of a 50% drop in GDP per year in terms of subjective wellbeing. Public debt, on the other hand, has a short-run positive effect.Our estimated index of subjective wellbeing generally does not feature any positive trend, which is consistent with the Easterlin paradox, although we caution against long term analysis given the historical variation of written texts (which parallel similar issues with historical GDP statistics).

Keywords: historical subjective wellbeing, big data, Google books, GDP, conflict

JEL Classification: N3, N4, O1, D6

Suggested Citation

Proto, Eugenio and Proto, Eugenio and Sgroi, Daniel, Historical Analysis of National Subjective Wellbeing Using Millions of Digitized Books. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2655144 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2655144

Eugenio Proto

University of Glasgow ( email )

University Avenue
Glasgow, G12 8QQ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/view/eugenioproto-research/home

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

Daniel Sgroi

University of Warwick - Department of Economics ( email )

Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
29
Abstract Views
317
PlumX Metrics