Happiness Convergence in Transition Countries
Journal of Comparative Economics
US : Elsevier B.V.
683 - 707 p.
The “transition happiness gap” has been one of the most robust findings in the literature on life satisfaction. Until very recently, scholars using various datasets have shown that residents of post-communist countries were significantly less satisfied with their lives than their counterparts in non-transition countries (controlling for income and other socio-economic characteristics). The literature has explained this finding by the great macroeconomic instability of the 1990s, by a substantial decrease in the quality and accessibility of public goods, by the major increase in inequality, and by the rapid depreciation of pre-transition human capital. All these factors were expected to subside over time – at least after the post-Great-Recession recovery. In this paper, we consider two most recent datasets – the third wave of the Life in Transition Survey (administered in 2015–16) and the 2010–2016 waves of the annual Gallup World Poll. We find that by 2016 the transition happiness gap had closed. This convergence has taken place both due to a “happiness recovery” in post-communist countries after the Great Recession and due to a decrease in life satisfaction in comparator countries in recent years. We also find that the convergence in life satisfaction was primarily driven by middle-income young, educated individuals, regardless of gender.