Economics, the Cheerful Science

Are economics students happier or less happy than other students in the social sciences?

A pair of German economists note that while scholars in their field have vigorously begun analyzing the economics of happiness, no one has studied the happiness of economists themselves. Not till now, anyhow. 

Justus Haucap, of Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf, and Ulrich Heimeshoff, of the University of Bochum, surveyed 918 students of economics and other social sciences in 2005, then estimated how studying each of the different fields affected individual life satisfaction. They reported their results in a paper titled, “The Happiness of Economists: Estimating the Causal Effect of Studying Economics on Subjective Well-Being.”

The news is good — for economics students, anyhow. Applying “innovative instrumental variable methods developed in labor and conflict economics,” the researchers identified a positive relationship between the study of economics and individual well-being.

Among the study’s other findings: Income level and the prospect of future employment were determined to be the primary drivers of life satisfaction. And students who identified themselves as political conservatives reported lower levels of satisfaction, on average. —Don Troop

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