NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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The Mid-Life Dip in Well-Being: Economists (Who Find It) Versus Psychologists (Who Don't)!

David G. Blanchflower, Carol L. Graham

NBER Working Paper No. 26888
Issued in March 2020
NBER Program(s):Economics of Aging, Health Economics, Labor Studies

A number of studies – including our own – find a mid-life dip in well-being. We review a psychology literature that claims that the evidence of a U-shape is "overblown" and if there is such a decline it is "trivial". We find remarkably strong and consistent evidence across countries and US states that statistically significant U-shapes exist with and without socio-economic controls. The US is somewhat of an outlier with evidence of an early uptick in the raw data with some variables – but not in others – that disappears when controls are included. We show that two of the studies cited by psychologists suggesting there are no U-shapes are in error; we use their data and find the opposite. The effects of the mid-life dip are comparable to major life events like losing a spouse, losing a job or getting cancer. They are clearly not inconsequential.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26888

 
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