Inequality of Happiness in US:1972-2008

Research output: Working paper


It is well accepted that a country's GDP may not reflect its level of well-being. In recent years, happiness has emerged as an alternative indicator of well-being and research so far has focussed 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 well-being. This has so far been overlooked in the literature. Our paper is an attempt to fill this gap, by measuring the inequality of happiness for US from 1972 to 2008 using the General Social Survey database. The data on happiness, however, is ordinal and any attempt in using existing 'mean' based measures of inequality will be problematic. Based on the methodology developed in Allison and Foster (2004) we are able to unambiguously rank the happiness distribution over the years. It also allows us to overcome the issue of ‘ordinality’ in the data through a median centered approach. Further we decompose the median inequality measure of happiness across gender, race and region.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

Publication series

NameSchool of Economics Discussion Paper Series
PublisherUniversity of Manchester