The Sad Truth About Happiness Scales: Empirical Results

57 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2018

See all articles by Timothy Bond

Timothy Bond

Purdue University - Department of Economics

Kevin Lang

Boston University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: July 2018

Abstract

We replicate nine key results from the happiness literature: the Easterlin Paradox, the ‘U-shaped’ relation between happiness and age, the happiness trade-off between inflation and unemployment, cross-country comparisons of happiness, the impact of the Moving to Opportunity program on happiness, the impact of marriage and children on happiness, the ‘paradox’ of declining female happiness, and the effect of disability on happiness. We show that none of the findings can be obtained relying only on nonparametric identification. The findings in the literature are highly dependent on one's beliefs about the underlying distribution of happiness in society, or the social welfare function one chooses to adopt. Furthermore, any conclusions reached from these parametric approaches rely on the assumption that all individuals report their happiness in the same way. When the data permit, we test for equal reporting functions, conditional on the existence of a common cardinalization from the normal family. We reject this assumption in all cases in which we test it.

Suggested Citation

Bond, Timothy and Lang, Kevin, The Sad Truth About Happiness Scales: Empirical Results (July 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24853, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3218105

Timothy Bond (Contact Author)

Purdue University - Department of Economics ( email )

West Lafayette, IN 47907-1310
United States

Kevin Lang

Boston University - Department of Economics ( email )

270 Bay State Road
Boston, MA 02215
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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