The Macroeconomics of Happiness

University of Bonn ZEI Working Paper No. B3

41 Pages Posted: 4 Oct 2001

See all articles by Rafael Di Tella

Rafael Di Tella

Harvard Business School - Business, Government and the International Economy Unit; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Robert MacCulloch

Imperial College London - Tanaka Business School

Andrew J. Oswald

University of Warwick - Department of Economics; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Date Written: September 17, 2001

Abstract

This paper shows that macroeconomic movements have strong effects on the happiness of nations. First, we find that there are clear microeconomic patterns in the psychological well-being levels of a quarter of a million randomly sampled Europeans and Americans from the 1970's to the 1990's. Happiness equations are monotonically increasing in income, and have a similar structure in different countries. Second, movements in reported well-being are correlated with changes in macroeconomic variables such as Gross Domestic Product. This holds true after controlling for the personal characteristics of respondents, country fixed-effects, year dummies, and country-specific time trends. Third, the paper establishes that recessions create psychic losses that extend beyond the fall in GDP and rise in the number of people unemployed. These losses are large. Fourth, the welfare state appears to be a compensating force: higher unemployment benefits are associated with higher national well-being.

Keywords: Well-being, Happiness, Macroeconomics, Costs of Business Cycles, Unemployment Insurance

JEL Classification: E6

Suggested Citation

Di Tella, Rafael and MacCulloch, Robert and Oswald, Andrew J., The Macroeconomics of Happiness (September 17, 2001). University of Bonn ZEI Working Paper No. B3. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=285918 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.285918

Rafael Di Tella

Harvard Business School - Business, Government and the International Economy Unit ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States
617-495-5048 (Phone)
617-496-5985 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.people.hbs.edu/rditella/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Robert MacCulloch (Contact Author)

Imperial College London - Tanaka Business School ( email )

South Kensington Campus
Exhibition Road
London SW7 2AZ, SW7 2AZ
United Kingdom

Andrew J. Oswald

University of Warwick - Department of Economics ( email )

Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom
523510 (Phone)

IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Schaumburg-Lippe-Str. 7 / 9
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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