Class Note for INDV 102 with Professor Kenworthy at UA
Class Note for INDV 102 with Professor Kenworthy at UA
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Date Created: 02/06/15
Stagnant happiness Outline Why care about happiness Happiness in America since the mid1970s Why the stagnation Why care about happiness Happiness matters It39s what many of us care most about quotWhat do I want for my kids For them to be happyquot It appears to improve physical health Is happiness all that matters Capability and actual living standards also are important independent of their impact on happiness The quotcomfortably numbquot hypothetical Happiness since the mid19705 The data General Social Survey 655 About 50000 American adults over 25 years of surveys The survey question quotTaken all together how would you say things are these days would you say that you are very happy pretty happy or not too happyquot Stagnant happiness 60 Pretty happy E 9 40 E W 39O N 5 3 Very happy 6 9 20 N C 0 Wm Not too happy l I 1975 1985 1995 2005 Year Source Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers quotHappiness Inequality in the United Statesquot 2008 using General Social Survey data Stagnant happiness 1 75 I I D E W D C 50 g Very happy 1 5 Pretty happy 5 5 Not too happy 0 25 0 I I I I 1975 1985 1995 2005 Year Source My calculations from data in Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers quotHappiness Inequality in the United Statesquot 2008 who use General Social Survey data Why the stagnation Why the stagnation There are a number of reasons to expect that happiness would have increased since the mid19705 Income is positively associated with happiness and median income has increased from 42000 to 49000 Physical health is positively associated with happiness and Americans have been getting healthier life expectancy up seven years Being unemployed is negatively associated with happiness and the unemployment rate has been lower 7 over 1973 1993 5 over 19942007 Why the stagnation There are a number of reasons to expect that happiness would have increased since the mid19705 Education is positively associated with happiness and educational attainment has increased Having children is negatively associated with happiness and Americans have been having fewer kids Across countries tolerance of diverse lifestyles is positively associated with happiness and American attitudes have grown increasingly tolerant the share saying homosexuality is quotalways wrongquot has dropped from 75 to 55 Possible culprits Slow income growth Rising income inequality Perceived physical health Religiosity Marriage Friends social interaction Slow income growth Across individuals and across countries income is one of the best predictors of happiness and life satisfaction And in some other countries for which there are overtime data the same association appears to hold The association is curvilinear additional income improves happiness more at low income levels than at high levels Slaw income growth Average happiness I I I 0 50000 100000 150000 200000 Family income 2006 Note 1972 to 2006 Sample size 41795 Each circle represents an income range of 2000 eg 10001 to 12000 in 2006 Its diameter is proportional to the number of people in that range Source My calculations from General Social Survey data gure 1 Life Satisfaction and Per Capita GDP around the World Denmark 87 o Finland o Norway 0 Vanezuela SaudiArabia 0 0g USA 7 O DCostaRica O spg Italy 0 0 Brazil 0 UK o Mex Czech Rep 0 Japgns Emirates 5 Pakma Omgeaa a a quot gapm Greece 0 E 67 O 0 ug 0 Taiwan quotKuwait 2 Indi 00 o a On 0 K O 0 Korea 1 O o 3 a O HongKong a O 0 0 Puerto RICO a 5 Russia o 2 Q quot 0 China 4 lt9 o OBulgaria Georgia oChacl ooBenm 37 Togo l l l l l 0 10000 20000 30000 40000 Per capita GDP in 2003 3014766 Penn World Tables 62 Note Each circle is a country with diameter proportional to population GDP per capita in 2003 is measured in purchasing power parity chained dollars at 2000 prices Slow income growth For most Americans income growth may have been too slow to improve happiness Rising income inequality The rise in income inequality might account for happiness stagnation The effect of income on happiness is partly relative people compare their incomes to others As inequality has grown many Americans feel relatively poorer Richard Layard television accentuates the perception of one39s material circumstances being far below the quotnormquot Perceived physical health Perceived physical health may matter more for happiness than actual physical health According to GSS data perceived physical health among American adults has not changed at all since the mid19705 Religiosity Belief in God is positively associated with happiness Since 1988 the GSS has asked a question about confidence in the existence of God The share of American adults saying they quotknow God existsquot has held constant at 6365 Marriage Being married is positively associated with happiness The share of American adults who are married has declined from 75 in the mid1970s to 55 in the mid20005 Divorced and nevermarried have each increased by about 10 percentage points Friends social connections We tend to be happier interacting with friends than when alone or interacting with other people such as family coworkers or work clients A GSS question asks quotThink back over the last six months and the people with whom you discussed the things most important to you How many were therequot McPherson SmithLovin and Brashears 2008 report the following 1985 2004 At least one nonkin 80 57 At least one friend 73 51 Summary Summary Happiness is important though it isn39t the only outcome we should care about and perhaps not the most important According to the best available data average happiness in the United States has not budged since the mid1970s This appears to be due to improvement in some contributing factors being offset by stagnation or deterioration in others
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