Andrew J. Oswald

Andrew J. Oswald
The University of Warwick · Department of Economics

About

330
Publications
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36,265
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Introduction
I am currently working on (i) the determinants of human wellbeing and (ii) the economics and behavioural science of climate change.

Publications

Publications (330)
Presentation
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Article
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Rationale Physical pain is one of the most severe of human experiences. It is thus one of the most important to understand. Objective This paper reports the first cross-country study of the links between physical pain and the state of the economy. A key issue examined is how the level of pain in a society is influenced by the unemployment rate. M...
Preprint
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Rationale. Physical pain is one of the most severe of human experiences. It is thus one of the most important to understand. Objective This paper reports the first cross-country study of the links between physical pain and the state of the economy. A key issue examined is how the level of pain in a society is influenced by the unemployment rate. Me...
Article
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Governments, multinational companies, and researchers today collect unprecedented amounts of data on human feelings. These data provide information on citizens’ happiness, levels of customer satisfaction, employees’ satisfaction, mental stress, societal trust, and other important variables. Yet a key scientific difficulty tends to be downplayed, or...
Preprint
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Are general lockdowns an appropriate response to the threat of Covid-19? Recent cost-benefit studies do not favour the case for them. Instead, since the virus practises a form of age discrimination (approximately 90% of coronavirus deaths are older than 65), some analysts have suggested an alternative. It is that younger citizens-the generation wor...
Preprint
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Economists have proposed a variety of sophisticated climate-change interventions. But do our citizens care enough about climate change to enact such policies? This paper provides evidence that suggests they do not. Two kinds of findings are presented. Using data on 40,000 Europeans from the 2016 European Social Survey, the paper shows that only 5%...
Article
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Objectives. To investigate changes from 1993 to 2019 in the percentage of US citizens suffering extreme distress. Methods. Using data on 8.1 million randomly sampled US citizens, we created a new proxy measure for exceptional distress (the percentage who reported major mental and emotional problems in all 30 of the last 30 days). We examined time t...
Article
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The world spends a remarkable $250 billion a year on lottery tickets. Yet, perplexingly, it has proved difficult for social scientists to show that lottery windfalls actually make people happier. This is the famous and still unresolved paradox due initially to Brickman and colleagues. Here we describe an underlying weakness that has affected the re...
Preprint
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The UK is 'locked down' because of coronavirus (COVID-19). No clear exit strategy currently exists. This paper suggests a possible way forward that combines elements from economics and epidemiology. The paper proposes as a policy a 'release' from lockdown of the young cohort of UK citizens aged between age 20 and 30 who do not live with parents. Th...
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2 Abstract It is known that people feel less happy in areas with higher levels of nitrogen dioxide NO2 (MacKerron and Mourato, 2009). What else might air pollution do to human wellbeing? This paper uses data on a standardized word-recall test that was done in the year 2011 by 34,000 randomly sampled English citizens across 318 geographical areas. W...
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Should journal editors and grant-giving bodies ever make use of random-draw mechanisms to make their final decisions? This short Note argues that the answer is yes. It describes a mathematical rationale for such randomization. Put intuitively, random draw should be used when the gains from the acceptance of unorthodox path-breaking papers outweigh...
Article
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Bosses play a fundamental role in workplaces. Yet, almost nothing is known about an important and basic question in labor economics and industrial relations. Are the right people promoted to be supervisors, team leaders, and managers? The infamous Peter Principle claims that incompetent bosses are likely to be all around us, but is that true? This...
Article
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Acknowledgements: We thank two referees for helpful suggestions. WORD COUNT: 3400 words approx. (excluding supplemental material). Abstract It is known that people feel less happy in areas with higher levels of nitrogen dioxide NO2 (MacKerron and Mourato, 2009). What else might air pollution do to human wellbeing? This paper uses data on a standard...
Chapter
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Using seven recent data sets, covering 51 countries and 1.3 million randomly sampled people, the paper examines the pattern of psychological well-being from approximately age 20 to age 90. Two conceptual approaches to this issue are possible. Despite what has been argued in the literature, neither is the ‘correct’ one, because they measure differen...
Chapter
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Advertising is ubiquitous in modern life. Yet might it be harmful to the happiness of nations? This paper blends longitudinal data on advertising with large-scale surveys on citizens’ well-being. The analysis uses information on approximately 1 million randomly sampled European citizens across 27 nations over 3 decades. We show that increases in na...
Chapter
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Paradoxically, the published literature on the psychological consequences of lottery wins has found almost no evidence that winners become happier. This famous puzzle was originally documented by the psychologist Philip Brickman and colleagues. Using new German panel data, we offer results that are more in accord with common sense and economic theo...
Article
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We point out in this paper that academic economists have contributed disturbingly little to discussions about climate change. We suggest that economists are failing the world-and their own grandchildren. As one example, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which is currently the most-cited journal in the field of Economics, has never published an ar...
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Abstract In Happiness for All?, Carol Graham raises disquieting ideas about today’s United States. The challenge she puts forward is an important one. Here we review the intellectual case and offer additional evidence. We conclude broadly on the author’s side. Strikingly, Americans appear to be in greater pain than citizens of other countries, and...
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On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom voted in favour of ‘Brexit’. This paper is an attempt to understand why. It examines the micro-econometric predictors of anti-EU sentiment. The paper provides the first evidence for the idea that a key channel of influence was through a person’s feelings about his or her own financial situation. By contrast, the...
Article
This commentary provides evidence of a longitudinal connection between current diet and later mental health. We build upon a research study, Ocean, Howley, and Ensor (2019, forthcoming), which uses UK data to argue that consumption of fruit and vegetables may be able to improve people's self-assessed mental-health scores on the general health quest...
Preprint
Full-text available
On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom voted in favour of 'Brexit'. This paper is an attempt to understand why. It examines the micro-econometric predictors of anti-EU sentiment. The paper provides the first evidence for the idea that a key channel of influence was through a person's feelings about his or her own financial situation. By contrast, the...
Preprint
Full-text available
Advertising is ubiquitous in modern life. Yet might it be harmful to the happiness of nations? This paper blends longitudinal data on advertising with large-scale surveys on citizens' well-being. The analysis uses information on approximately 1 million randomly sampled European citizens across 27 nations over 3 decades. We show that increases in na...
Article
Full-text available
Advertising is ubiquitous in modern life. Yet might it be harmful to the happiness of nations? This paper blends longitudinal data on advertising with large-scale surveys on citizens' well-being. The analysis uses information on approximately 1 million randomly sampled European citizens across 27 nations over 3 decades. We show that increases in na...
Preprint
Full-text available
Bosses play an important role in workplaces. Yet little is currently known about a foundational question. Are the right people promoted to be managers, team leaders, and supervisors? Gallup data and the famous Peter Principle both suggest that incompetent bosses are likely to be all around us. This paper's results uncover a different, and more nuan...
Article
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Females typically earn less than males. The reasons are not fully understood. This paper re‐examines the idea that women “don't ask,” which potentially assigns part of the responsibility for the gender pay gap onto female behavior. Such an account cannot readily be tested with standard datasets. This paper is the first to be able to use matched emp...
Article
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Using ultrasound scan data from paediatric hospitals, and the exogenous ‘shock’ of learning the gender of an unborn baby, the paper documents the first causal evidence that offspring gender affects adult risk-aversion. On a standard Holt-Laury criterion, parents of daughters, whether unborn or recently born, become almost twice as risk-averse as pa...
Article
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Nearly 100 years ago, the philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell warned of the social dangers of widespread envy. One view of modern society is that it is systematically developing a set of institutions -- such as social media and new forms of advertising -- that make people feel inadequate and envious of others. If so, how might that be in...
Article
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On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union (so-called 'Brexit'). This paper uses newly released information, from the Understanding Society data set, to examine the characteristics of individuals who were for and against Brexit. Two new findings emerge. First, unhappy feelings contributed to Brexit. However, contrary to c...
Article
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Being told the sex of your unborn child is a major exogenous 'shock'. In the first study of its kind, we collect before-and-after data from hospital wards. We test for the causal effects of learning child gender upon people's degree of risk-aversion. Using a standard Holt-Laury criterion, the parents of daughters, whether unborn or recently born, a...
Article
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The idea that humans -- especially females -- are prone to some form of ‘midlife crisis’ has typically been viewed with extreme skepticism by social scientists. We point out the potential equivalence between an age U-shape in a new well-being literature and a matching hill-shape in especially female suicide risk (evident in 28 countries and visible...
Chapter
“The dream of a property-owning democracy is alive, and we will help you fulfil it,” Mr David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the UK, speech given in August 2015
Article
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Using seven recent data sets, covering 51 countries and 1.3 million randomly sampled people, the paper examines the pattern of psychological well-being from approximately age 20 to age 90. Two conceptual approaches to this issue are possible. Despite what has been argued in the literature, neither is the 'correct' one, because they measure differen...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives: To explore whether improvements in psychological well-being occur after increases in fruit and vegetable consumption. Methods: We examined longitudinal food diaries of 12 385 randomly sampled Australian adults over 2007, 2009, and 2013 in the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey. We adjusted effects on incident...
Article
Professor EJ Mishan was a world expert on the idea of externalities. In this paper, we provide evidence for the intuitive idea of “emotional externalities”. These might be viewed as psychological spillovers from the well-being of one person upon the well-being of another. A new form of laboratory experiment is implemented. “Happiness” answers are e...
Article
A growing literature argues that mental well-being follows an approximate U-shape through life. Yet in the eyes of some scholars this evidence remains controversial. The reason is that it relies on people’s answers to ‘happiness’ surveys. The present paper explores a different approach. It examines modern data on the use of antidepressant pills (as...
Article
This article studies a famous unsolved puzzle in quantitative social science. Why do some nations report such high levels of mental well-being? Denmark, for instance, regularly tops the league table of rich countries’ happiness; Britain and the US enter further down; some nations do unexpectedly poorly. The explanation for the long-observed ranking...
Article
Governments are becoming interested in the concept of human well-being and how truly to assess it. As an alternative to traditional economic measures, some nations have begun to collect information on citizens' happiness, life satisfaction, and other psychological scores. Yet how could such data actually be used? This paper is a cautious attempt to...
Article
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There is a large amount of cross-sectional evidence for a midlife low in the life cycle of human happiness and well-being (a ‘U shape’). Yet no genuinely longitudinal inquiry has uncovered evidence for a U-shaped pattern. Thus some researchers believe the U is a statistical artefact. We re-examine this fundamental cross-disciplinary question. We su...
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Nearly all workers have a supervisor or ‘boss’. Yet there is almost no published research by economists into how bosses affect the quality of employees’ lives. This study offers some of the first formal evidence. First, it is shown that a boss’s technical competence is the single strongest predictor of a worker’s well-being. Second, we examine equi...
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Abstract What makes,workers happy? Here we argue that pure ‘rank’ matters. It is currently believed that wellbeing is determined partly by an individual's absolute wage (say, 30,000 dollars a year) and partly by the individual's relative wage (say, 30,000 dollars compared to an average in the company or neighborhood of 25,000 dollars). Our evidence...
Data
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Much of human knowledge is produced in the world's university departments. There is little scientific evidence, however, about how those hundreds of thousands of departments are best organized and led. This study hand-collects longitudinal data on departmental chairpersons in 58 US universities over a 15-year period. There is one robust predictor o...
Article
Governments try to discourage risky health behaviours, yet such behaviours are bewilderingly persistent. We suggest a new conceptual approach to this puzzle. We show that expected utility theory predicts that unhappy people will be attracted to risk-taking. Using US seatbelt data, we document evidence strongly consistent with that prediction. We ex...
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Objective: Although human aging is characterized by loss of fertility and progressive decline in physical abilities, later life is associated with better psychological health and well-being. Furthermore, there has been an unprecedented increase in average lifespan over the past century without corresponding extensions of fertile and healthy age sp...
Article
Governments try to discourage risky health behaviours, yet such behaviours are bewilderingly persistent. We suggest a new conceptual approach to this puzzle. We show that expected utility theory predicts that unhappy people will be attracted to risk-taking. Using US seatbelt data, we document evidence strongly consistent with that prediction. We ex...
Article
Many governments wish to assess the quality of their universities. A prominent example is the UK's new Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014. In the REF, peer-review panels will be provided with information on publications and citations. This paper suggests a way in which panels could choose the weights to attach to these two indicators. The ana...
Article
The authors explore the hypothesis that high home-ownership damages the labor market. The results are relevant to, and may be worrying for, a range of policymakers and researchers. The authors find that rises in the home-ownership rate in a US state are a precursor to eventual sharp rises in unemployment in that state. The elasticity exceeds unity:...
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The question of whether there is a connection between income and psychological well-being is a long-studied issue across the social, psychological, and behavioral sciences. Much research has found that richer people tend to be happier. However, relatively little attention has been paid to whether happier individuals perform better financially in th...
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Recently, economists and behavioral scientists have studied the pattern of human well-being over the lifespan. In dozens of countries, and for a large range of well-being measures, including happiness and mental health, well-being is high in youth, falls to a nadir in midlife, and rises again in old age. The reasons for this U-shape are still uncle...
Article
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Humans run on a fuel called food. Yet economists and other social scientists rarely study what people eat. We provide simple evidence consistent with the existence of a link between the consumption of fruit and vegetables and high well-being. In cross-sectional data, happiness and mental health rise in an approximately dose-response way with the nu...
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This paper examines the hypothesis that greater job status makes a person healthier. It begins by successfully replicating the well-known cross-section association between health and job seniority. Then, however, it turns to longitudinal patterns. Worryingly for the hypothesis, the data-on a large sample of randomly selected British workers through...
Article
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Some researchers suggest that human well-being is U-shaped through our lives. If it exists, such a curve could be classified as a truly fundamental discovery about humans. Yet sceptics point to the difficulty of relying on questions in which people are asked to describe subjective feelings – and the result is then an impasse. This paper suggests a...
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High rates of divorce in western society have prompted much research on the repercussions for well-being and the economy. Yet little is known about the important topic of whether parental divorce has deleterious consequences upon adult children. By combining experimental and econometric survey-based evidence, this study attempts to provide an answe...
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Most economists are not familiar with so-called biomarker data. We attempt here to provide an introduction to such data and to describe the econometric structure of simple biomarker equations. We draw upon information on the heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure, fibrinogen, and C-reactive protein levels of 100,000 adults. We show that...
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Suicide kills more Americans each year than die in motor accidents. Yet its causes remain poorly understood. We suggest in this paper that the level of others’ happiness may be a risk factor for suicide (although one's own happiness likely protects one from suicide). Using U.S. and international data, the paper provides evidence for a paradox: the...
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This paper reports the first longitudinal test of the famous 'Whitehall' hypothesis that greater job status makes a person healthier. With one exception, our evidence does not support it. Consistent with the theory's predictions, managers and supervisors are found to have better health, but we show that these individuals were healthier before being...