There’s growing interest in happiness (or well-being/satisfaction) across academic disciplines.
Want Happiness? Health, Age, Relationships & Work Matter.
A great primer on the basics is this podcast interview with Carol Graham of Brookings. Among other fascinating realities, Carol and interviewer Fred Dews discuss the paradox of “frustrated achievers and happy peasants,” the relative importance of health, work, wealth, age, religiosity, and relationships (see article: You can’t be happier than your wife 🙂 ), the average well-being of protesters around the world, and the fact that among great apes, just as in humans, the relationship of happiness to age follows a “smiley curve” (not exactly how they referred to it, so may I claim authorship of that term 🙂 ?
What About Emitting Carbon, Development, Wealth… Related to Happiness?
I just posted a paper at my SSRN author page that was recently accepted for presentation at the European Academy of Management’s 2014 Annual Conference (Euram2014) that tests whether there is a relationship (across countries) between human development (as measured by the Human Development Index, or HDI), income (per capita), carbon emissions (per capita), and self-reported happiness. The paper uses model-based cluster analysis (for which I have to thank my coauthor D. Steven White) to explore whether there exist clearly defined clusters of statistically similar countries, and what are their characteristics. I thought there might be a few surprises. It turns out there were – and not the surprises I was expecting :). As Carol mentions in the podcast, there are countries where self-reported happiness (like Nigeria and Venezuela) where happiness is much higher than one would expect based on conventional measures of average wealth per capita. Consistent with that observation, our study found (to somewhat simplify), that as countries move “up” in terms of “development” cohorts (as measured by HDI, emissions, income per person), average self-reported happiness actually dips before trending back up (come to think of it, this is not dissimilar to the phenomenon of aging – as we age, average happiness dips in the mid-life era before trending back up). It’s quite striking to see the average carbon footprints of the various mathematically-determined clusters and see comparatively tiny per capita emissions in a cluster of countries where happiness levels rival those in the highest emitting countries. In a nutshell: no, you don’t need to emit carbon to have happiness, among other take-aways.
So here’s the link to the abstract of the paper (whence you may download it). In a neat coincidence, it was accepted to Euram2014 on the same day as I stumbled upon the Tweet of the Brookings podcast, which made me want to post this follow-up right away. Since then, I made some edits to the paper based on reviewer feedback (which are in the version you can access above).
Since I wrote this blog post before finishing the edits, I created something to amuse visitors to this site in the meantime – my first attempt at a poll on this blog (see below, especially the disclaimer that it’s just intended for fun 🙂