Is money or sociability more important to happiness?
Using longitudinal data on households living in Germany, we quantify what part of the change in subjective well-being observed over the last two decades is predicted by changes in variables which typically show strong cross-sectional correlation with subjective well-being. We especially focus on absolute income, income comparisons, income adaptation, and sociability, finding that all have some predictive power. The increase in sociability indicators predicts the largest positive change in subjective well-being. Absolute income, income comparisons and income adaptation also predict substantial changes in subjective well-being, if taken separately. However, if considered together their net prediction is quite small: the positive change predicted by income growth is compensated for about three fourths by the joint negative predictions due to income comparison and income adaptation. Finally, we find that aging of the population predicts the largest negative change in subjective well-being. This result appears to hinge on the large loss of satisfaction experienced by individuals in old age.
Source: “Predicting the Trend of Well-Being in Germany: How Much Do Comparisons, Adaptation and Sociability Matter?” from CEPS Working Paper 2010-07
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