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Americans: Ever Unhappier and Hurting
When Economics Professor Danny Blanchflower is not forecasting the arrival of recessions and pushing iconoclastic views about interest rates, he is a happiness guru. With his colleague Andrew Oswald, he analyzes people’s feelings about their lives and what motivates them (including money and sex — surprise, surprise). Blanchflower and Oswald’s latest findings, as published in a NBER working paper, Unhappiness and Pain in Modern America: A Review Essay, and Further Evidence, on Carol Graham’s Happiness for All?, were reported on this week in a Washington Post piece: Not only are Americans becoming less happy — we’re experiencing more pain too. Here are the study’s two key graphs:
Don’t worry. Be happy.
Addendum: The paper is forthcoming in the American Economics Association’s Journal of Economic Literature
Addendum: A longtime reader writes in:
Thank you for the post. The findings as presented in the paper appear to suggest that 1) US is unhappy and 2) this may be related to the fact that US is hurting.
Since the paper leverages pain survey study from 2011, I used percentages reported in it to calculate ranks for each participating country (US got the lowest 32 meaning high pain). Rank of 1 means the lowest pain.
As the second consideration is happiness, I used data for the same 32 countries from World Happiness Report 2017 available here: http://worldhappiness.report/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/03/HR17.pdf (Helliwell, J., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. (2017). World Happiness Report 2017, New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network). Specifically, I utilized the 2014-2016 ranking of happiness data (Figure 2.2 and corresponding table) comprising the following components: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption. It should be noted that out of 155 countries, US is ranked 14 (Top 10%). This appears to disprove point 1). Rank of 1 means the highest happiness.
Regarding point 2), I calculated correlation between pain score and happiness score ranks for 32 respective countries (please see the attached). I observed statistically significant negative correlation i.e. countries ranked as “quite painful” are also ranked as quite happy. To me, this suggests that pain score is unlikely to be a reliable surrogate for the happiness and that there may be methodological flaws with the pain score metric in the first place (as in small sample size, reliance of self-reported aches and pains and being a snapshot of a single 4 week period in 2011).
It is also worth noting that US finds itself in a pretty good group of other countries with high pain/high happiness: Australia and Nordics: Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland (respective alpha-2 codes used). All 5/5 are in Top 10 happiest countries in the world.
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
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- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
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- The Indian Wars
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