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Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?. Alberto Alesina (Harvard), Rafael Di Tella (Harvard), and Robert MacCulloch (London School of Economics) National Bureau of Economic Research, April 2001 By: Michelle Rava . Research Topics.

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inequality and happiness are europeans and americans different

Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?

Alberto Alesina (Harvard), Rafael Di Tella (Harvard),

and Robert MacCulloch (London School of Economics)

National Bureau of Economic Research, April 2001

By: Michelle Rava

research topics
Research Topics
  • The study is a crossroads of the study of determinates of happiness and of preferences for redistribution of wealth.
    • Rich/Poor
    • Left/Right
    • Does one group innately prefer more equal societies?
    • What role does social mobility play in the effect of inequality on happiness?
      • It would make sense for the poor to favor redistribution more strongly than the rich; however, “the poor of today may become the rich of tomorrow and they may not want to be in the future the ones who will support redistributive schemes.”
methods
Methods
  • United States
    • Happiness
      • United States General Social Survey (1972-1994)
      • Taken all together, how would you say things are these days-would you say you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?
    • Preference for Redistribution
      • Gini coefficients of gross family income for each state from the US Census Bureau
  • Europe
    • Happiness
      • The Euro-Barometer Survey Series (1975-1992)
      • Taking all things together, how would you say things are these days-would you say you’re very happy, fairly happy, or not too happy these days?
      • On the whole are you very satisfied, fairly satisfied, not very satisfied or not at all satisfied with the life you lead?
    • Preference for Redistribution
      • Gini coefficients from the Deininger and Squire 1996 data set
empirical analysis
Empirical Analysis
  • Happygist is the answer given by an individual who lives in a certain state and year. g=whole sample, and can also be divided on the basis of other variables being studied.
  • MACROst refers to a set of variables at the state level that have previously been found to affect individual happiness
  • MICROgst refers to a set of personal characteristics that impact individual happiness
  • Others are dummy variables for year, error term and cross sectional units
united states
United States
  • Money does bring happiness
  • Education brings happiness
  • Right wing respondents were unaffected by inequality, while left leaning respondents show an inverse effect between happiness and inequality
  • The happiness of the poor seems unaffected by inequality; yet, the rich show a small effect of increased unhappiness
  • “…if there is an overall small effect of inequality in the US it comes from the leftist and rich voters.”
europe
Europe
  • The left shows a strong aversion to inequality, while data for the right was insignificant.
  • While the happiness of the poor is strongly affected by inequality, the rich are not affected.
conclusions
Conclusions
  • There is a significant negative effect of inequality on happiness in Europe but not in the US
  • Leftist and poor Europeans exhibit a strong aversion to inequality; however, none of the political or socioeconomic groups examined in the US displayed an an aversion.
  • There are more opportunities for social mobility in the US than in Europe.
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