Becker Friedman Institute

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Does Happiness Pay Revisited – New Evidence from the U.S.A.

In this paper, we revisit our 2004 paper that found a strong positive association between happiness and future outcomes, based on data for Russia in the years 1995-2000. This paper takes advantage of a new Gallup panel for the U.S. for 2014-2016. We essentially duplicate our original method, and add some new specifications. We find remarkably similar patterns and associations between initial period happiness and later period outcomes in the U.S., based on a very different time and sample from Russia in the 1990’s.

We believe that duplicating the earlier findings in a very different time and place is an important test of how robust this association is. We also find some new twists in the initial patterns that are interesting in their own right. The aim here is not only to show that the causality does not just run from the usual variables to higher or lower levels of well-being, but that the traits that subjective well-being metrics capture, such as happiness and hope, have their own independent role in the outcomes of the lives of myriad individuals around the world.

Authors: 
Carol Graham, The Brookings Institution
Diana Liu, The Gallup Organization
Publication Date: 
September, 2018
Publication Status: 
Document Number: 
2018-061
File Description: 
First version, September, 2018