American happiness gap narrowing

In: Uncategorized

6 Aug 2008

A recent study by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers suggest that the happiness gap between some sections of the American population (black-white, male-female) seems to have narrowed. This is despite a widening of income inequality. A summary of the paper is below:

“Surveys that have attempted to measure the level of happiness in US citizens by means of a subjective response have unveiled decreases in happiness inequality. These findings come in spite of the long-term trend of increasing income inequality.

“The authors of CEPR DP6929 have used these responses to analyse the level and dispersion of happiness within and between demographic groups over the period of 1972-2006. In particular, they look at changes in the racial, gender and education gaps.

“Whilst they find that overall levels of happiness have remained relatively stable with a slight, but statistically significant decline, the distribution of happiness between and within demographic groups has changed significantly. The black-white gap was found to have narrowed substantially and the gender gap to have almost disappeared. In addition, the education gap was found to have widened.

“In light of increasing income inequality, the authors suggest that these findings may reveal a possible decrease in inequality in the non-pecuniary domain. In particular they highlight changes in the US legal and institutional framework that occurred during the observed time period that may help to explain the changes.”

For a reference to an earlier work by the same authors debunking the “paradox of prosperity” see my post of 16 April 2008.

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