16 Nov The price of happiness
PETER MARTIN – Brisbane Times
November 16, 2009
WHAT’S a marriage worth? To an Aussie male, about $32,000. That’s the lump sum Professor Paul Frijters says the man would need to receive out of the blue to make him as happy as his marriage will over his lifetime. An Aussie woman would need much less, about $16,000.
But when it comes to divorce, the Aussie male will be so devastated it would be as if he had lost $110,000. An Aussie woman would be less traumatised, feeling as if she had lost only $9000.
Recently named this year’s Best Australian Economist under 40 by the Economic Society of Australia, the Queensland University of Technology professor knows this because he has been mining a unique set of data that has tracked the happiness and major life events of about 10,000 Australians once a year since 2001.
”These are real people to whom unexpected things happen. They weren’t selected because these things would happen, and we can compare their happiness before and after,” Professor Frijters told Fairfax after presenting his findings at the Australian National University.
Asked to describe how satisfied they are with their lives on a scale of 0 to 10, the Australians surveyed most often use the number eight, but the answers change after (and sometimes in anticipation of) major life events and also after sudden changes in income.
That has enabled the professor to put dollar values on the effects on happiness of major events such as marriage, divorce and birth, or as he puts it to calculate their ”psychic costs” or ”psychic benefits”.
The birth of a child turns out to bring both. It makes parents the happiest before it happens and then after some months slightly less happy than they would have been without the birth, which is why Professor Frijters puts low dollar values on the lifetime boost to happiness that flows from a birth – for the mother around $8700, for the father $32,600.
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