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Title:Objective confirmation of subjective measures of human well-being: evidence from the USA PDF Logo
Authors:Oswald, Andrew J.
Wu, Stephen
Issue Date:2010
Series/Report no.:IZA Discussion Papers 4695
Abstract:A huge research literature, across the behavioral and social sciences, uses information on individuals' subjective well-being. These are responses to questions - asked by survey interviewers or medical personnel - such as how happy do you feel on a scale from 1 to 4? Yet there is little scientific evidence that such data are meaningful. This study examines a 2005-2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System random sample of 1.3 million United States citizens. Life-satisfaction in each U.S. state is measured. Across America, people's answers trace out the same pattern of quality of life as previously estimated, using solely non-subjective data, in a literature from economics (so-called 'compensating differentials' neoclassical theory due originally to Adam Smith). There is a state-by-state match (r = 0.6, p < 0.001) between subjective and objective well-being. This result has some potential to help to unify disciplines.
Subjects:Happiness
well-being
compensating differentials
spatial equilibrium
JEL:I31
Document Type:Working Paper
Appears in Collections:IZA Discussion Papers, Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit (IZA)

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