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Does past unemployment experience explain the transition happiness gap?

Publication Abstract

Norton, Edward, Olena Nizalova, and Irina Murtazashvili. 2018. "Does past unemployment experience explain the transition happiness gap?" Journal of Comparative Economics, 46(3): 736-753.

The profound economic and political changes of the 1990s had detrimental social effects in many domains of life in post-socialist countries, including diminishing life expectancy and growing unhappiness. Despite economic improvements in the second decade of transition, research has documented that happiness lagged behind. We test whether past unemployment experience can explain this "transition happiness gap in the context of Ukraine", a country with a painful delayed transition from planned to market economy. We analyze unique longitudinal data for the period 2003-2012. Current unemployment substantially reduces subjective wellbeing, and the effect is roughly 50% larger for men than for women. The effect of past unemployment is significant, but small in magnitude compared to the effect of current unemployment. However, it does correspond to around 8% of the "transition happiness gap" found by Guriev and Melnikov (2017), suggesting that past unemployment experience can be considered as a partial explanation.

10.1016/j.jce.2018.07.005

Keywords:
Adaptation Life satisfaction Scarring Social comparison Transition happiness gap Unemployment

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