July 2014

IZA DP No. 8300: National Happiness and Genetic Distance: A Cautious Exploration

published in: Economic Journal, 2017, 127 (604), 2127-2152

This paper examines a famous puzzle in social science. Why do some nations report such high happiness? Denmark, for instance, regularly tops the league table of rich nations' well-being; Great Britain and the US enter further down; France and Italy do relatively poorly. Yet the explanation for this ranking – one that holds even after adjustment for GDP and socio-economic and cultural variables – remains unknown. We explore a new avenue. Using data on 131 countries, we document a range of evidence consistent with the hypothesis that certain nations may have a genetic advantage in well-being.