Are economics students happier? One estimation from Germany

Michael Tamada sent me notice of a recent study, by Justus Haucap and Ulrich Heimeshoff:

A pair of German economists note that while scholars in their field have vigorously begun analyzing the economics of happiness, no one has studied the happiness of economists themselves. Not till now, anyhow. 

Justus Haucap, of Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf, and Ulrich Heimeshoff, of the University of Bochum, surveyed 918 students of economics and other social sciences in 2005, then estimated how studying each of the different fields affected individual life satisfaction. They reported their results in a paper titled, "The Happiness of Economists: Estimating the Causal Effect of Studying Economics on Subjective Well-Being."

The news is good – for economics students, anyhow. Applying "innovative instrumental variable methods developed in labor and conflict economics," the researchers identified a positive relationship between the study of economics and individual well-being.

That's German students they surveyed, not American students.  The researchers also report that self-described political conservatives (in the German sense) report lower levels of happiness.

They do control for career prospects but if you go to p.9 I do not understand why they chose the instrumental variables they did.  The paper itself is here.


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