Increase in Equality of Happiness Between Blacks and Whites

(p. B1) White Americans don’t report being any more satisfied with their lives than they did in the 1970s, various surveys show. Black Americans do, and significantly so.

Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, the University of Pennsylvania economists who did the study, point out that self-reported measures of happiness usually shift at a glacial pace. The share of whites, for example, telling pollsters in recent years that they are ”not too happy” — as opposed to ”pretty happy” or ”very happy” — has been about 10 percent. It was also 10 percent in the 1970s.
Yet the share of blacks saying they are not too happy has dropped noticeably, to about 20 (p. B12) percent in surveys over the last decade, from 24 percent in the 1970s. All in all, Mr. Wolfers calls the changes to blacks’ answers, ”one of the most dramatic gains in the happiness data that you’ll see.”

For the full commentary, see:
DAVID LEONHARDT. “ECONOMIC SCENE; For Blacks, Progress In Happiness.” The New York Times (Weds., September 15, 2010): B1 & B12.

The working paper referred to in the commentary is:
Stevenson, Betsey, and Justin Wolfers. “Subjective and Objective Indicators of Racial Progress.” May 12, 2010.

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