Polls / June 4, 2010

Do you think the unemployment rate affects how happy you are?

The unemployment rate does affects happiness, according to 59% of respondents to the latest eZonomics online poll.

If you're heading to work Monday morning - be happy
As much as many of us like to gripe about our jobs, it seems we get a lot out of them. Research reported by Tim Harford in his Dear Economist column in the Financial Times suggested jobs "bring happiness and self-respect" and that unemployment was "extremely distressing".
At a company-by-company level, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index also suggests a clear link between unemployment and happiness. A Wall Street Journal story about the study says it shows people who work for employers hiring new workers "tend to have a significantly more positive outlook on their lives than people who work for companies that are laying people off".
So even if their job isn't directly threatened, there seems to be an impact on happiness.

The unemployment rate might bring you down
At the individual level, unemployment is widely acknowledged to cause distress but the link is debated at a country-by-country level. The growing body of so-called "happiness economists" examine the impacts of the wider - or macro - economic conditions on happiness.
University of Warwick economics professor Andrew Oswald wrote in his 1997 paper Happiness and Economic Performance that "unemployment appears to be the primary economic source of unhappiness" and said governments should take steps to cut joblessness. It also makes sense that when the unemployment rate is higher, people are more likely to know someone who lost their job and will potentially worry about the unemployed person's circumstances.
But the Institute of Economic Affairs' Happiness, Economics and Public Policy paper issued in 2007 challenged "supposed relationships" between happiness and unemployment, saying they were "far too unreliable and unstable to be of use in policymaking".
At a wider level, debate about how happiness should be measured is heating up, with a report penned by Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz and commissioned by French President Nicholas Sarkozy released last year. It said the emphasis in measuring happiness should be moved from production - or gross domestic product (GDP) - to a broader measure of well being.


eZonomics team
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