Daniel Hamermesh, 19 November 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed not only how people spend time, but with whom they spend it. Partnered people may be spending more time with a spouse or cohabitor while singles spend more time alone. This column investigates how these changes in time allocation might affect individual feelings of wellbeing. Time diaries from the US and the UK suggest that married couples compelled to spend more time together may experience increased happiness, while the crisis could take an emotional toll on unmarried individuals forced to spend more time alone.

Sebastian Edwards, 30 November 2019

In a few decades, Chile experienced dramatic economic growth and the fastest reduction of inequality in the region. Yet, many Chilean citizens feel that inequality has greatly increased. Such feelings of 'malestar' triggered the violent social unrest of October 2019. This paper explains this seeming paradox by differentiating ‘vertical’ (income) inequality from ‘horizontal’ (social) inequality. It argues that the neoliberalism that created Chile’s economic growth is no longer effective and that Chile may be headed towards adopting a welfare state model.

Joseph Stiglitz, Martine Durand, Jean-Paul Fitoussi, 29 July 2019

If what experts say has little or no relation to what people feel or can see all around them, it’s inevitable that they stop believing the experts and the politicians they advise, and look for answers elsewhere. This column introduces the work of the High-Level Expert Group on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, which argues that we need to develop datasets and tools to examine the factors that determine what matters for people and the places in which they live. Having the right set of indicators, and anchoring them in policy, will help close the gap between experts and ordinary people that lies at the root of today’s political crisis.

David Bloom, Alyssa Lubet, 29 April 2019

As baby boomers get older, many high-income countries face challenges in the provision of pensions and healthcare. The column argues that the US has particularly acute problems arising from its ageing population, high healthcare costs, and high inequality in maternal mortality and other health indicators. It will take deep social policy and health system reforms to address these inequalities.

Christian Krekel, George Ward, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, 21 April 2019

A growing number of companies place a high priority on the wellbeing of their workers, assuming that happier workers will lead to improved productivity. This column examines this link based on a meta-analysis of independent studies accumulated by Gallup, covering the wellbeing and productivity of nearly 2 million employees and the performance of over 80,000 business units, originating from 230 independent organisations across 49 industries in 73 countries. The results suggest a strong positive correlation between employee wellbeing, productivity, and firm performance.

Ricardo Perez-Truglia, 10 April 2019

Tax records became easily accessible online in Norway in 2001, allowing everyone in the country to observe the incomes of everyone else. This column offers evidence that people primarily went online to snoop on the incomes of friends, relatives, and other contacts. This game of income comparisons negatively affected the wellbeing of poorer Norwegians while at the same time boosting the self-esteem of the rich.

Le-Yu Chen, Ekaterina Oparina, Nattavudh Powdthavee, Sorawoot Srisuma, 18 March 2019

Recent critiques of wellbeing research have shown that mean comparisons of reported and latent happiness across groups are valid only under strong assumptions that are usually rejected by the data. This leads to scepticism over whether econometric analysis of wellbeing data can be used to inform policy. This column suggests using the median rather than the mean, because the median ranking is stable across all increasing transformations. When focusing on the median of wellbeing data, the Easterlin Paradox still holds.

Leandro de la Escosura, 02 June 2018

Rising trends in GDP per capita are often interpreted as reflecting rising levels of general wellbeing. But GDP per capita is at best a crude proxy for wellbeing, neglecting important qualitative dimensions. This column explores the long-term trends in global wellbeing inequality using a new dataset. Inequality indices reflecting various aspects of wellbeing are shown to have been declining since WWI, unlike real GDP per capita inequality. 

Richard Samans, 06 March 2018

Recent political developments in many countries suggest that most of their citizens lack confidence in the assumption of the standard growth model that everyone in a society benefits from GDP growth. This column proposes a multidimensional 'Inclusive Development Index', based on a dashboard of indicators in growth and development, inclusion, and intergenerational equity and sustainability. GDP per capita growth is weakly correlated with performance in many of the new index’s indicators, including those pertaining to employment, income and wealth inequality, and carbon intensity.

Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, 17 November 2017

How do people respond to variations in economic growth? In this video, Jan-Emmanuel De Neve explains how the recent recession negatively affects people's wellbeing. This video was recorded at the Centre for Economic Performance (LSE) in September 2014.

David Blanchflower, Andrew Oswald, 16 September 2017

Most textbooks in social psychology teach students the idea that happiness and psychological wellbeing are essentially independent of age. Based on data on 1.3 million randomly sampled individuals across a large number of countries, this column argues instead that humans have a fundamental tendency to a midlife low which is apparently substantial and not minor. This puzzling phenomenon seems an important and fundamental one, and its existence should not be ignored.

Wouter den Haan, Martin Ellison, Ethan Ilzetzki, Michael McMahon, Ricardo Reis, 30 March 2017

Are quantitative measures of subjective wellbeing reliable enough to provide insights into empirical macroeconomic analysis, and should they influence the objectives of macroeconomic policy? The latest Centre for Macroeconomics and CEPR expert survey finds a reasonable amount of openness to wellbeing measures among European macroeconomists. On balance, though, there remains a strong sense that while these measures merit further research, we are a long way off reaching a point where they are widely accepted and sufficiently reliable for macroeconomic analysis and policymaking.

Andrew Clark, Sarah Fleche, Richard Layard, Nattavudh Powdthavee, George Ward, 12 December 2016

Understanding the key determinants of people’s life satisfaction will suggest policies for how best to reduce misery and promote wellbeing. This column discusses evidence from survey data on Australia, Britain, Germany, and the US which indicate that the things that matter most are people’s social relationships and their mental and physical health; and that the best predictor of an adult’s life satisfaction is their emotional health as a child. The authors call for a new focus for public policy: not ‘wealth creation’ but ‘wellbeing creation’.

Mevlude Akbulut-Yuksel, Adriana Kugler, 17 October 2016

Upward social mobility is widely sought but often elusive in highly mobile societies like the US. While previous work has focused on intergenerational transmission of income levels and social prosperity among natives and immigrants, this column studies the intergenerational transmission of health. There is substantial persistence in health status for both natives and immigrants. However, as immigrant families remain in the US for more generations, their children’s health tends to resemble more the health of native children and less the health of their mothers.

John Helliwell, 06 September 2016

Discussions about inequality tend to focus on the distribution of income and wealth. This column argues for a shift in focus towards another source of inequality – subjective wellbeing. Wellbeing inequality has grown significantly for the world as a whole and in eight of the ten global regions. One way to address this inequality is to increase social trust.

Daniel Gallardo Albarrán, 22 May 2016

Industrialisation has been the key to modern economic growth and rapidly rising incomes, but some question whether it is always a blessing when taking a broader view of human wellbeing. While the recent rise of China and other Asian economies has transformed the lives of millions, the experience of Britain in the 19th century shows a more mixed picture of development. This column presents a unified framework for measuring British wellbeing over the period 1780-1850, which shows that better health and higher income levels alternated in improving overall wellbeing, until declining health in the 1840s led to stagnating wellbeing.

Andrew Clark, Elena Stancanelli, 26 April 2016

Terrorism wreaks a terrible cost on societies. This column quantifies some of the effects by employing daily data on individual, self-reported emotional feelings combined with time allocation data from the American Time Use Survey. The focus is on the days before and after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The data show a significant drop in well-being, driven by the responses of women and Massachusetts residents. Hours worked were not affected.

Thomas Hills, Eugenio Proto, Daniel Sgroi, 18 September 2015

With records of subjective wellbeing going back less than half a century, this column asks if we can know the impact of key past events on the happiness of our ancestors. It presents a new historical index that draws on millions of digitised books in the Google Books corpus of words using sentiment analysis. The index – which goes back to the 1776 US Declaration of Independence, 200 years earlier than any other index of happiness – makes it possible to analyse the historical drivers of happiness in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US.

Sebastian Galiani, Paul Gertler, Raimundo Undurraga, 21 July 2015

Does material wealth make you happier? Recent literature and public discussion suggests that we believe widely that, in the long term, it doesn’t; especially if you are fairly wealthy and live in the West. But what if you’re poor and live in a developing country? This column presents new evidence that taking material improvements for granted is a common human behaviour that is present even among the extremely poor.

Daniel Benjamin, Samantha Cunningham, Ori Heffetz, Miles Kimball, Nichole Szembrot, 02 January 2015

There is growing interest in alternative measures of national wellbeing, such as happiness or life satisfaction. This column argues that a small number of survey questions are unlikely to capture all the aspects of wellbeing that matter to people. Using a stated-preference survey, the authors find several aspects of wellbeing to be important that are not commonly included in wellbeing surveys, such as those related to family, values, and security. This approach could be used to provide weights for wellbeing indices.



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