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Superstitions, Street Traffic, and Subjective Well-Being

Michael L. Anderson, Fangwen Lu, Yiran Zhang, Jun Yang, Ping Qin

NBER Working Paper No. 21551
Issued in September 2015
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Environment and Energy Economics, Public Economics

Congestion plays a central role in urban and transportation economics. Existing estimates of congestion costs rely on stated or revealed preferences studies. We explore a complementary measure of congestion costs based on self-reported happiness. Exploiting quasi-random variation in daily congestion in Beijing that arises because of superstitions about the number four, we estimate a strong effect of daily congestion on self-reported happiness. When benchmarking this effect against the relationship between income and self-reported happiness we compute implied congestion costs that are several times larger than conventional estimates. Several factors, including the value of reliability and externalities on non-travelers, can reconcile our alternative estimates with the existing literature.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21551

Published: Michael L. Anderson & Fangwen Lu & Yiran Zhang & Jun Yang & Ping Qin, 2016. "Superstitions, Street Traffic, and Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Public Economics, . citation courtesy of

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