Note: We are deeply grateful to two referees and Conchita D'Ambrosio whose comments have led to substantial improvements in the paper. We are also indebted to Angus Deaton for suggesting us the topic some time ago. Foster acknowledges support from the Institute for International Economic Policy (IIEP) at the George Washington University. The usual disclaimer applies.
Inequality of Happiness in the U.S.: 1972–2010
Article first published online: 9 NOV 2012
© 2012 The Authors. Review of Income and Wealth © 2012 International Association for Research in Income and Wealth
Review of Income and Wealth
Volume 59, Issue 3, pages 393–415, September 2013
How to Cite
Dutta, I. and Foster, J. (2013), Inequality of Happiness in the U.S.: 1972–2010. Review of Income and Wealth, 59: 393–415. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4991.2012.00527.x
- Issue published online: 4 AUG 2013
- Article first published online: 9 NOV 2012
- 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.