DP12346 Happiness Convergence in Transition Countries

Author(s): Sergei Guriev, Nikita Melnikov
Publication Date: October 2017
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Programme Areas: Development Economics
Link to this Page: www.cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=12346

The "transition happiness gap" has been one of the most robust findings in the life satisfaction literature. Until very recently, scholars using various datasets on life satisfaction have shown that residents of post-communist countries were significantly less satisfied with their lives than their counterparts in non-transition countries (controlling for income and other correlates of life satisfaction). The literature has explained this finding by the great macroeconomic instability of 1990s, by a substantial decrease in the quality and accessibility of public goods, by the major increase in inequality, and by the rapid depreciation of pre-transition human capital. All these factors were expected to subside over time --- at least after the post-Great-Recession recovery. In this paper, we consider two most recent datasets -- the third wave of the Life in Transition Survey (administered in 2015-16) and the 2010-2016 waves of the annual Gallup World Poll. We find that by 2016 the transition happiness gap had closed. This "happiness convergence" has taken place both due to a "happiness recovery" in post-communist countries after the Great Recession and due to a decrease in life satisfaction in comparator countries in recent years. We also find that the convergence in life satisfaction was primarily driven by middle-income young educated individuals, regardless of gender.