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Are we architects of our own happiness? The importance of family background for well-being

Autor: Schnitzlein, Daniel D. and Wunder, Christoph
Nummer: 539, Oct 2014, pp. 32
JEL-Class: D3, I31, J62

This paper analyzes whether individuals have equal opportunity to achieve happiness (or well- being). We estimate sibling correlations and intergenerational correlations in self-reported life satisfaction, satisfaction with household income, job satisfaction, and satisfaction with health. We find high sibling correlations for all measures of well-being. The results suggest that family background explains, on average, between 30% and 60% of the inequality in permanent well-being. The influence is smaller when the siblings’ psychological and geographical distance from their parental home is larger. Results from intergenerational correlations suggest that parental characteristics are considerably less important than family and community factors.


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