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Bartolini, S., Bilancini, E., Pugno, M. (2008). Did the Decline in Social Capital Decrease American Happiness? A Relational Explanation of the Happiness Paradox. University of Siena Dept of Economics working paper 513

Most popular explanations of the happiness paradox cannot fully account for the lack of growth in U.S. reported well-being during the last thirty years (Blanchflower and Oswald (2004)). In this paper we test an alternative hypothesis, namely that the decline in U.S. social capital is responsible for what is left unexplained by previous research. We provide three main findings. First, we show that the inclusion of social capital does improve the account of reported happiness. Second, we provide evidence of a decline in social capital indicators for the period 1975-2004, confirming Putnam's claim (Putnam (2000)). Finally, we show that failed growth of happiness is largely due to the decline of social capital and, in particular, to the decline of its relational and intrinsically motivated component.


Bartolini, Stefano

We live in rich countries and that has allowed us to resolve many problems. We have freed ourselves of mass poverty, we have access to consumer goods, to education, health care, we live longer and better etc. Regardless of this many of us seem to live in a state of uneasiness and malaise. Our...

Bilancini, Ennio

Ennio Bilancini is Assistant Professor in Economics at the Department of Economics of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.

Pugno, Maurizio

Maurizio Pugno (M.Phil. in Economics, Cambridge, UK) is full-time professor in economics (Cassino University). He has recently taught at the Universities of Trento, Bicocca (Milan), and at the S.Anna School of Advanced Studies (Pisa). His fields of interests at CREAM are behavioural economics and...

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