Empirical Economics

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 77–92

How much does money really matter? Estimating the causal effects of income on happiness

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00181-009-0295-5

Cite this article as:
Powdthavee, N. Empir Econ (2010) 39: 77. doi:10.1007/s00181-009-0295-5


There is a long tradition of psychologists finding small income effects on life satisfaction (or happiness). Yet the issue of income endogeneity in life satisfaction equations has rarely been addressed. The present paper is an attempt to estimate the causal effect of income on happiness. Instrumenting for income and allowing for unobserved heterogeneity result in an estimated income effect that is almost twice as large as the estimate in the basic specification. The results call for a reexamination on previous findings that suggest money buys little happiness, and a reevaluation on how the calculation of compensatory packages to various shocks in the individual’s life events should be designed.


Income Life satisfaction Instrumental variables Longitudinal Happiness Cost-benefit analysis 

JEL Classification

C33 I0 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and Related StudiesUniversity of YorkYorkUK

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