LIFE CYCLE WELFARE: TRENDS AND DIFFERENCES


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Abstract

A cohort analysis of United States General Social Science Survey data since 1972 reveals that the life cycle trend in average happiness is remarkably flat. Throughout the life course, however, whites are typically happier than blacks, and more educated persons are happier than their less educated counterparts. In recent years the black-white differential has narrowed moderately, and - although there is no consistent difference by gender - the happiness of females has declined relative to males. Some psychologists assert that happiness is largely determined by genetic or personality traits, but the persistence of life cycle differences by race and education suggests that external socio-economic circumstances are important influences on happiness.

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