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Happiness Around the World Andrew Oswald University of Warwick and CAGE I am deeply grateful to John Helliwell and Shun Wang for their advice and for generously.

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Presentation on theme: "Happiness Around the World Andrew Oswald University of Warwick and CAGE I am deeply grateful to John Helliwell and Shun Wang for their advice and for generously."— Presentation transcript:

1 Happiness Around the World Andrew Oswald University of Warwick and CAGE I am deeply grateful to John Helliwell and Shun Wang for their advice and for generously providing their data and tables. I would like to acknowledge that much of this work is joint with coauthors Andrew Clark, Nick Powdthavee, David G. Blanchflower, Alex Weiss, Rainer Winkelmann, and Steve Wu. I thank the ESRC for support.

2 The background

3 Is modern society going in a sensible direction?

4 To be able to know, we have to decide what should be measured.

5

6 Yet in 1934

7 “...the welfare of a nation [can] scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income...”

8 Hug a tree today

9

10 Prof. Simon Kuznets The originator of the concept of GDP

11 “...the welfare of a nation [can] scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income...”

12 Today Governments around the world are starting to change what they measure.

13 But how could that be done?

14

15 This is in the spirit of speeches by Ben Bernanke: “The ultimate purpose of economics... is to understand and promote the enhancement of well-being.”

16 New UK survey questions

17 Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?

18 New UK survey questions Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays? Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?

19 New UK survey questions Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays? Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday? Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?

20 New UK survey questions Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays? Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday? Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday? Overall, to what extent do you feel the things you do in your life are worthwhile?

21 Typical GHQ mental-strain questions Have you recently: Lost much sleep over worry? Felt constantly under strain? Felt you could not overcome your difficulties? Been feeling unhappy and depressed? Been losing confidence in yourself? Been thinking of yourself as a worthless person? Been able to enjoy your normal day-to-day activities?

22 The distribution of life-satisfaction levels among British people Source: BHPS, N = 74,481

23 One backdrop

24 The intriguing, and worrying, ‘Easterlin Paradox’

25 Economic growth doesn’t seem to be making us happier.

26 Average Happiness and Real GDP per Capita Over Time in the USA.

27 The very latest evidence

28 Title: China's life satisfaction, China's life satisfaction, Easterlin, Richard A.; Morgan, Robson; Switek, Malgorzata; et al. Source: PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Volume: 109 : JUN

29 Modern China’s happiness has not risen

30 To get a sense of why, let’s think about human nature.

31

32 5 dollars

33

34 500,000 dollars

35 5 dollars

36 500,000 dollars

37 “A watch defines a man's look and tone.” Rolex advert.

38

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42 How can we make sense of these facts?

43 Subconsciously, humans seem frightened of falling behind.

44 There is a huge amount of evidence that human beings care about their relative position.

45 We are now able to see that inside the brain.

46

47 Title: Social comparison affects reward- related brain activity in the human ventral striatum Author(s): Fliessbach K, Weber B, Trautner P, et al. Source: SCIENCE Volume: 318 Issue: 5854 Pages: Published: NOV Social comparison affects reward- related brain activity in the human ventral striatum

48 Armin Falk et al

49 While being scanned in adjacent MRI scanners, pairs of subjects had to perform a task with monetary rewards for correct answers.

50 Variation in the comparison subject's payment affected blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) responses in the ventral striatum.

51 Variation in the comparison subject's payment affected blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) responses in the ventral striatum. This brain region is engaged in the registration of primary rewards.

52 Falk et al in Science

53 “The mere fact of outperforming the other subject positively affected reward-related brain areas.”

54 But then a focus on total national income (GDP) misses the point.

55 The total amount of relative status is fixed.

56 So we need measures of

57 How has the modern work on the economics and social science of happiness proceeded?

58 Regression equations

59 Mental well-being = f(Age, gender, education level, income, marital status, friendship networks, region, year…)

60 A flavour of the key findings in this research field:

61 Big effects Unemployment Income Marriage Bereavement Friendship networks Health [No effects from children]

62 The pattern of a typical person’s happiness through life

63 U-shaped happiness in apes (published in PNAS)

64 Strong macro effects too

65 Unemployment (negative) Inflation (negative) GDP (controversial) Di Tella et al. AER 2001, REStats 2003

66 and environmental effects

67 Air quality (positive) Green environments (positive) Noise pollution (negative) Luechinger. EJ 2009, Levinson JPublicEconomics 2012, White et al. Psychological Science 2013

68 There have been few randomized- trial experiments in social policy.

69 One, published in Science recently: “Neighborhood Effects on the Long-Term Well-Being of Low-Income Adults” Jens Ludwig Greg J. Duncan Lisa A. Gennetian Lawrence F. Katz Ronald C. Kessler Jeffrey R. Kling Lisa Sanbonmatsu

70 “Moving from a high-poverty neighborhood... increased the happiness of low-income adults by an amount equivalent to the gains caused by a $13,000 rise in income.” J. Ludwig

71 A second RCT paper The Oregon Experiment — Effects of Medicaid on Clinical Outcomes Katherine Baicker et al. N Engl J Med 2013; 368: May 2, 2013DOI: /NEJMsa May 2, 2013

72 I am going to describe the patterns of international well- being

73 I am going to describe the patterns of international well- being -- and how governments might wish to react to those patterns.

74 One small nation typically is top

75 UK about 10th in the world Source. Figure 2.3 of:

76 Currently top-4: Denmark Norway Switzerland Netherlands

77 Are these measures reliable?

78 Researchers have shown: The different subjective well- being measures produce similar patterns.

79 Across nations, hypertension and happiness are inversely correlated (Blanchflower and Oswald, 2008 Journal of Health Economics)

80 A brain-science approach (Urry et al Psychological Science 2004 )

81 Salivary cortisol (Steptoe data) 8 samples (08:00 – 22:30) Adjusted for gender, age, occupational grade, smoking, bmi, and GHQ P =.009

82 So what do we find when we look across nations?

83 Richer countries are happier

84 Latest estimates of what makes countries happy

85 Social spending as a % of GDP* Unemployment insurance generosity Clean air (eg. SOx emissions) Unemployment and inflation Low crime and corruption Openness to trade *Ben Radcliff measure: It is a standard OECD measure--covers not just the obvious income maintenance programs like unemployment insurance, but also family allowances, public health spending, housing subsidies, etc, as a proportion of GDP.

86 Latest estimates of what makes countries happy Social spending as a % of GDP* Unemployment insurance generosity Clean air (eg. SOx emissions) Unemployment and inflation Low crime and corruption Openness to trade *Ben Radcliff measure: It is a standard OECD measure--covers not just the obvious income maintenance programs like unemployment insurance, but also family allowances, public health spending, housing subsidies, etc, as a proportion of GDP.

87 Latest estimates of what makes countries happy Social spending as a % of GDP* Unemployment insurance generosity Clean air (eg. SOx emissions) Unemployment and inflation Low crime and corruption Openness to trade *Ben Radcliff measure: It is a standard OECD measure--covers not just the obvious income maintenance programs like unemployment insurance, but also family allowances, public health spending, housing subsidies, etc, as a proportion of GDP.

88 Latest estimates of what makes countries happy Social spending as a % of GDP* Unemployment insurance generosity Clean air (eg. SOx emissions) Low unemployment and inflation Low crime and corruption Openness to trade *Ben Radcliff measure: It is a standard OECD measure--covers not just the obvious income maintenance programs like unemployment insurance, but also family allowances, public health spending, housing subsidies, etc, as a proportion of GDP.

89 Latest estimates of what makes countries happy Social spending as a % of GDP* Unemployment insurance generosity Clean air (eg. SOx emissions) Low unemployment and inflation Low crime and corruption Openness to trade *Ben Radcliff measure: It is a standard OECD measure--covers not just the obvious income maintenance programs like unemployment insurance, but also family allowances, public health spending, housing subsidies, etc, as a proportion of GDP.

90 Latest estimates of what makes countries happy Social spending as a % of GDP* Unemployment insurance generosity Clean air (eg. SOx emissions) Low unemployment and inflation Low crime and corruption Openness to trade *Ben Radcliff measure: It is a standard OECD measure--covers not just the obvious income maintenance programs like unemployment insurance, but also family allowances, public health spending, housing subsidies, etc, as a proportion of GDP.

91 Latest estimates of what makes countries happy Social spending as a % of GDP* Unemployment insurance generosity Clean air (eg. SOx emissions) Low unemployment and inflation Low crime and corruption Openness to trade *Ben Radcliff measure: It is a standard OECD measure--covers not just the obvious income maintenance programs like unemployment insurance, but also family allowances, public health spending, housing subsidies, etc, as a proportion of GDP.

92 Perhaps even a genetic explanation for some countries’ happiness

93 World Happiness Report 2013 The following calculations are due to John Helliwell (UBC Canada) and Shun Wang (KDI Korea).

94

95

96 Why does Denmark do so well?

97

98 Understanding the UK?

99 We do OK. But we have weakened our welfare state recently.

100 Summing up

101 For researchers, the future is incredibly exciting.

102 For countries, we have to be careful not to emphasise growth above ultimate ends.

103 The balance of the current scientific evidence:

104 What makes countries happy:

105 High social spending as a % of GDP Unemployment-insurance generosity Clean air (eg. low SOx emissions) Low unemployment and inflation Low crime and corruption Openness to trade Genes

106 Happiness Around the World Andrew Oswald University of Warwick and CAGE Downloadable research papers at:


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