National Happiness and Genetic Distance: A Cautious Exploration


By: Proto, Eugenio (University of Warwick) ; Oswald, Andrew J. (University of Warwick)
This paper studies a famous unsolved puzzle in quantitative social science. Why do some nations report such high levels of mental well-being? Denmark, for instance, regularly tops the league table of rich countries’ happiness; Britain and the US enter further down; some nations do unexpectedly poorly. The explanation for the longobserved ranking – one that holds after adjustment for GDP and other socioeconomic variables – is currently unknown. Using data on 131 countries, the paper cautiously explores a new approach. It documents three forms of evidence consistent with the hypothesis that some nations may have a genetic advantage in well-being.
Keywords: Well-being; international; happiness; genes; 5HTT; countries JEL Classification: I30; I31

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