Longitudinal Evidence for a Midlife Nadir in Human Well-being: Results from Four Data Sets

 
By: Cheng, Terence Chai (Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research)
Powdthavee, Nattavudh (London School of Economics)
Oswald, Andrew J. (University of Warwick)
URL: http://d.repec.org/n?u=RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7942&r=ltv
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 unadjusted longitudinal data without the need for regression equations. The paper’s methodological contribution is to exploit the first-derivative properties of a well-being equation.
Keywords: life-cycle happiness, subjective well-being, longitudinal study, U shape
JEL: I31 D01 C18
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