Unhappiness after Hurricane Katrina

Miles Kimball, Helen Levy, Fumio Ohtake, Yoshiro Tsutsui

NBER Working Paper No. 12062
Issued in March 2006
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and Growth, Health Care

In August, September and October of 2005, the Monthly Surveys of Consumers fielded by the University of Michigan included questions about the happiness of a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults. The date of each interview is known. Looking at the data week by week, reported happiness dipped significantly in the first week of September, after the seriousness of the damage done by Katrina became clear. The impulse response of happiness is especially strong in the South Central region, closest to the devastation of Katrina. The dip in happiness lasted two or three weeks in the South Central region; in the rest of the country, reported happiness returned to normal after one or two weeks. In addition to the reaction to Katrina, happiness dipped significantly after the October 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. These results illustrate the potential of high-frequency happiness data to yield information about preferences over regional, national and international conditions by indicating the magnitude of the good or bad news conveyed by events.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w12062

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