Labor earnings reductions, happiness levels and needs hierarchy
Keywords:pay cuts, happiness, subjective wellbeing, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
One of the main economic outcomes of the recent Great Recession has been the decrease of labor earnings in many countries. The relevant literature indicates that earnings and other socioeconomic predictors can influence levels of happiness. This paper tests the effect of pay cuts on happiness levels based on the psychological model of hierarchical needs. The basic idea of hierarchy is that the most important needs must be satisfied first before the secondary needs come into the picture. In a happiness research framework, this implies that for higher income levels, the effect of pay cuts on reported happiness levels becomes much weaker, given that the satisfaction of non-basic needs becomes important. The data used in this paper was drawn from the 5th European Survey on Working Conditions, which focuses on European countries. Two different disaggregation methods were performed, based on absolute nominal income threshold and relative income threshold, respectively. The methods for analyzing the data are the ordinary least-squares (OLS) regression model, and the Wald chi-square test. The pay cuts are a stronger predictor of happiness for low/middle income individuals than for high income individuals when it comes to disaggregation based on absolute threshold. The regression coefficients of pay cuts for the low/middle income group were not significantly different from those for the high income group regarding disaggregation based on relative threshold. The results seem to depend on the disaggregation method, implying the need for further research and discussion.
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