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Keywords:

  • D39;
  • I39
  • dominance;
  • happiness;
  • inequality;
  • median inequality;
  • scale independence

It is well accepted that a country's GDP may not fully reflect its level of well-being. In recent years, happiness has emerged as an alternative indicator of well-being, and research has mainly focused on determining the level of happiness. While it is important to look at the level, the distribution of happiness is also a salient aspect in any evaluation of inequality. There has been a growing interest in the distribution of happiness, although the ordinal nature of the data makes the use of standard inequality measures problematic. Our paper contributes to the literature by exploring the distributions for the U.S. from 1972 to 2010. Based on new methods developed for ordinal data, we are able to overcome the problems associated with ordinality and obtain unambiguous rankings of happiness distributions. We also compute the level of happiness inequality using existing measures based on median centred approaches. Further, we decompose the median based inequality measures of happiness by gender, race, and region.