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Friday, April 07, 2006

Republican Bliss: The Selfish Road to Happiness

Republicans are happier than Democrats, according to the report "Are We Happy Yet?" recently released by the Pew Research Center. Based on a nationally representative, random sample in the United States, 45% of Republicans report being "very happy," compared with just 30% of Democrats and 19% of Independents.
 
What is particularly striking about this finding is that it is not simply a reflection of the current political environment. Rather, as the Pew report notes, Republicans have been consistently happier than Democrats throughout the entire period since 1972, when the General Social Survey (GSS) began measuring happiness in the US.
 
What's more, Republicans are happier than Democrats even after controlling for other factors. For instance, among individuals making less than $30,000 per year, 28% of Republicans report being "very happy," versus 23% of Democrats. Among individuals making over $75,000 per year, 52% of Republicans report being very happy versus 41% of Democrats.
 
So how can these consistent differences in happiness be explained? Three types of causal relationships that may be invoked to explain this association between party affiliation and happiness. Being a Republican may cause greater happiness. Or it may be that happier people are more likely to become Republican. Or, perhaps both happiness and party affiliation are related because both are determined by some other causal factor.
 
To better understand how these causal relationships might operate let's look at some potential sources of happiness, or subjective well being, at a more general level.
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