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      LONGITUDINAL EVIDENCE FOR A MIDLIFE NADIR IN HUMAN WELL-BEING: RESULTS FROM FOUR DATA SETS*

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      Economic journal (London, England)

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          Abstract

          There is a large amount of cross-sectional evidence for a midlife low in the life cycle of human happiness and well-being (a ‘U shape’). Yet no genuinely longitudinal inquiry has uncovered evidence for a U-shaped pattern. Thus, some researchers believe the U is a statistical artefact. We re-examine this fundamental cross-disciplinary question. We suggest a new test. Drawing on four data sets, and only within-person changes in well-being, we document powerful support for a U shape in longitudinal data (without the need for formal regression equations). The article’s methodological contribution is to use the first-derivative properties of a well-being equation.

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          Most cited references 40

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          The Macroeconomics of Happiness

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            Is job satisfaction U-shaped in age?

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              Explaining happiness.

               R Easterlin (2011)
              What do social survey data tell us about the determinants of happiness? First, that the psychologists' setpoint model is questionable. Life events in the nonpecuniary domain, such as marriage, divorce, and serious disability, have a lasting effect on happiness, and do not simply deflect the average person temporarily above or below a setpoint given by genetics and personality. Second, mainstream economists' inference that in the pecuniary domain "more is better," based on revealed preference theory, is problematic. An increase in income, and thus in the goods at one's disposal, does not bring with it a lasting increase in happiness because of the negative effect on utility of hedonic adaptation and social comparison. A better theory of happiness builds on the evidence that adaptation and social comparison affect utility less in the nonpecuniary than pecuniary domains. Because individuals fail to anticipate the extent to which adaptation and social comparison undermine expected utility in the pecuniary domain, they allocate an excessive amount of time to pecuniary goals, and shortchange nonpecuniary ends such as family life and health, reducing their happiness. There is need to devise policies that will yield better-informed individual preferences, and thereby increase individual and societal well-being.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                101518442
                36912
                Econ J (London)
                Econ J (London)
                Economic journal (London, England)
                0013-0133
                1468-0297
                10 May 2017
                15 October 2015
                February 2017
                01 February 2018
                : 127
                : 599
                : 126-142
                Affiliations
                University of Melbourne
                London School of Economics and Political Science and University of Melbourne
                University of Warwick
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author: Terence C. Cheng, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, 111 Barry Street, FBE Building, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia. techeng@ 123456unimelb.edu.au
                Article
                NIHMS873741
                10.1111/ecoj.12256
                5501292
                28694549

                This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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