Choices Which Change Life Satisfaction – Revising SWB Theory to Account for Change

33 Pages Posted: 20 Jun 2013

See all articles by Bruce Headey

Bruce Headey

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research

Ruud Muffels

Tilburg University

Gert G. Wagner

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin); Berlin University of Technology; German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP)

Date Written: May 2010

Abstract

Using data from the long-running German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) from 1984 to 2008, this paper analyzes the effects of individual preferences and choices on subjective well-being (SWB). It is shown that preferences and choices relating to life goals/values, partner’s personality, hours of work, social participation, and healthy lifestyle all have substantial effects on life satisfaction. The results have negative implications for the still dominant theory of SWB, set-point theory. This theory holds that adult SWB does not change in the medium or long term, although temporary fluctuations occur due to specific life events. Set-point theory has come under increasing criticism in recent years, primarily due to unmistakable evidence in SOEP that, during the last 25 years, up to a third of the population has recorded substantial and apparently permanent changes in life satisfaction. It is becoming clear that the main challenge now for SWB researchers is to develop a new theory which can account for medium and long term change, and not merely stability in SWB. Set-point theory is limited precisely because it is purely a theory of stability. The paper is based on a specially constructed SOEP file in which data are divided into five 5-year periods in order to facilitate analysis of medium term change.

Keywords: subjective well-being, SWB, set-point theory, life goals, individual choice, panel regression analysis, SOEP

JEL Classification: I31, J1, Z13

Suggested Citation

Headey, Bruce and Muffels, Ruud and Wagner, Gert G., Choices Which Change Life Satisfaction – Revising SWB Theory to Account for Change (May 2010). SOEP Paper No. 302, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1974454 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1974454

Bruce Headey

University of Melbourne - Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research ( email )

Level 5, FBE Building, 111 Barry Street
Parkville, Victoria 3010
Australia

Ruud Muffels (Contact Author)

Tilburg University ( email )

Postbus 90153
Tilburg, DC Noord-Brabant 5000 LE
Netherlands
0031134662795 (Phone)
0031134663003 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.uvt.nl/

Gert G. Wagner

German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin) ( email )

Mohrenstraße 58
Berlin, 10117
Germany
+49 30 8 978 9290 (Phone)
+49 30 8 978 9200 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.diw.de/programme/jsp/MA.jsp?language=en&uid=gwagner

Berlin University of Technology ( email )

Straße des 17
Berlin, 10623
Germany
+30 8 978 9283 (Phone)

German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) ( email )

DIW Berlin
10108 Berlin, Berlin
Germany
+49 30 8978 9290 (Phone)
+49 30 8978 9109 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.diw/en/soep

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
60
Abstract Views
515
rank
430,874
PlumX Metrics