Viewing archives for Prof. Andrew Oswald

Are Environmental Concerns Deterring People from Having Children? Longitudinal Evidence on Births in the UK

Ben Lockwood, Nattavudh Powdthavee and Andrew J. Oswald


Do ‘green’ environmental concerns — such as about biodiversity, climate change, pollution — deter citizens from having children? This paper reports the first longitudinal evidence consistent with that increasingly discussed hypothesis. It follows through time a random sample of thousands of initially childless men and women in the UK. Those individuals who are committed to a green lifestyle are found to be substantially less likely to go on later to have offspring (or fewer offspring). In the later analysis we adjust statistically for a large set of potential confounders. They include people’s age, education, income, marital status, mental health, life satisfaction, optimism, and physical health. Because there might also be unobservable reasons why those who are pro-environmental may be less likely to want a child, and to try to ensure that the finding cannot be explained by selection and omitted variables, the paper explores Oster’s (2019) bounds test. The paper’s final estimated effect-size is substantial. A person entirely unconcerned about environmental behaviour is estimated to be approximately 70% more likely to go on to have a child than a deeply committed environmentalist.

The Midlife Crisis

Osea Giuntella, Sally McManus, Redzo Mujcic, Andrew J. Oswald, Nattavudh Powdthavee, Ahmed Tohamy


This paper documents a longitudinal crisis of midlife among the inhabitants of rich nations. Yet middle-aged citizens in our datasets are close to their peak earnings, have typically experienced little or no illness, reside in some of the safest countries in the world, and live in the most prosperous era in human history. This is paradoxical and troubling. The finding is consistent, however, with the prediction—one little-known to economists—of Elliott Jaques (1965). Our analysis does not rest on elementary cross-sectional analysis. Instead, the paper uses panel and through-time data on, in total, approximately 500,000 individuals. It checks that the key results are not due to cohort effects. Nor do we rely on simple life satisfaction measures. The paper shows that there are approximately quadratic hill-shaped patterns in data on midlife suicide, sleeping problems, alcohol dependence, concentration difficulties, memory problems, intense job strain, disabling headaches, suicidal feelings, and extreme depression. We believe that the seriousness of this societal problem has not been grasped by the affluent world’s policy-makers.

Prof. Andrew Oswald

Andrew Oswald is a Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the University of Warwick and a Senior Research Fellow at the Wellbeing Research Centre, University of Oxford. He is an ISI highly cited researcher and currently a member of the board of reviewing editors of Science. His research is principally in applied economics and quantitative social science. It currently includes work on the COVID-19 crisis and health economics. In more normal times Andrew Oswald also works on the empirical study of job satisfaction, human happiness, mental health, unemployment, labour productivity, and the influence of diet on psychological well-being.

Wellbeing Research & Policy Conference 2022, Oxford

Inequality, well-being, and the problem of the unknown reporting function

Caspar Kaiser and Andrew J. Oswald

Every politician, in every nation and in every era of history, eventually has to face a complex and emotive question. Should I try to redistribute money from my richer citizens to my poorer citizens? If so, by how much? This is a timeless issue.

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Feelings integers are highly predictive of future human behaviour, research shows

New research shows that a person’s own rating of their feelings – even on a seemingly arbitrary scale – is of greater predictive power than a collection of socioeconomic measures.

The findings, published today (Monday) in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were made by researchers at the Wellbeing Research Centre, University of Oxford, using data from approximately 700,000 people across multiple countries.

Professor Andrew Oswald (Warwick) and Dr Caspar Kaiser (Oxford) examined the relationship by comparing self-reported feelings integers – for example, where individuals were asked to rate their satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 10 – to later ‘get-me-out-of-here’ actions.

These actions, where individuals choose to leave their current setting, are an unambiguous signal of human dissatisfaction with the status quo. For the purposes of this study, the authors looked at four types of get-me-out-of-here action: moving dwellings, changing intimate partners, leaving jobs, and hospital visits.

Across 34 years of data in Germany, 25 years in the UK and 20 years in Australia, their research shows that feelings integers are generally of greater predictive power than combined socioeconomic variables including household income, marital status, education and number of children, among others.

The researchers describe a stable and almost linear relationship between a single feelings integer and these self-driven life changes, in all three of the countries examined in the study.

Dr Caspar Kaiser, Research Fellow at the Wellbeing Research Centre and a Research Officer at Oxford’s Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), and corresponding author for the study, added: “It is unknown whether our results will replicate more globally, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Another interesting next step would be to examine whether the observed action-satisfaction associations systematically differ across population groups, e.g. between men and women or across age.”

The scientific value of numerical measures of human feelings’ is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The scientific value of numerical measures of human feelings

Caspar Kaiser and Andrew J. Oswald


Human feelings cannot be expressed on a numerical scale. There are no units of measurement for feelings. However, such data are extensively collected in the modern world—by governments, corporations, and international organizations. Why? Our study finds that a feelings integer (like my happiness is X out of 10) has more predictive power than a collection of socioeconomic influences. Moreover, there is a clear link between those feelings numbers and later get-me-out-of-here actions. Finally, the feelings-to-actions relationship appears replicable and not too far from linear. Remarkably, therefore, humans somehow manage to choose their numerical answers in a systematic way as though they sense within themselves—and can communicate—a reliable numerical scale for their feelings. How remains an unsolved puzzle.


Human feelings measured in integers (my happiness is an 8 out of 10, my pain 2 out of 6) have no objective scientific basis. They are “made-up” numbers on a scale that does not exist. Yet such data are extensively collected—despite criticism from, especially, economists—by governments and international organizations. We examine this paradox. We draw upon longitudinal information on the feelings and decisions of tens of thousands of randomly sampled citizens followed through time over four decades in three countries (n = 700,000 approximately). First, we show that a single feelings integer has greater predictive power than does a combined set of economic and social variables. Second, there is a clear inverse relationship between feelings integers and subsequent get-me-out-of-here actions (in the domain of neighborhoods, partners, jobs, and hospital visits). Third, this feelings-to-actions relationship takes a generic form, is consistently replicable, and is fairly close to linear in structure. Therefore, it seems that human beings can successfully operationalize an integer scale for feelings even though there is no true scale. How individuals are able to achieve this is not currently known. The implied scientific puzzle—an inherently cross-disciplinary one—demands attention.

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How People Rate Pizza, Jobs and Relationships Is Surprisingly Predictive of Their Behavior

Scientific American

Researchers are perplexed as to why inner feelings about life and love predict our actions better than the best social science

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Wellbeing scientists named among Nobel-class researchers

Three of the world’s brightest minds in the field of wellbeing science have been cited among researchers considered possibles for a Nobel Prize.

Professor Lord Richard Layard (LSE), Professor Andrew Oswald (Warwick) and Professor Richard A Easterlin (USC) have been named Clarivate Citation Laureates “for pioneering contributions to the economics of happiness and subjective wellbeing”.

Citation Laureates are so named based on the citation impact of their published research and demonstrated research influence comparable to that of Nobel Prize recipients. The trio are among just 21 Citation Laureates named across four categories (physics, chemistry, medicine and economics) in 2022.

Professor Oswald is a Senior Research Fellow at the Wellbeing Research Centre, University of Oxford, while Professor Lord Layard is a senior member of the Centre’s Advisory Board. Professor Easterlin has previously contributed to the Centre’s seminar series.

Since Citation Laureates were first named by Clarivate analysts in 2002*, 64 have gone on to become Nobel laureates either in the year of their citation or later.

Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Director of the Wellbeing Research Centre and Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the Saïd Business School, Oxford, said: “This prestigious recognition is hugely well-deserved by these three giants of wellbeing science, and all at the Centre wish to congratulate Lord Layard, Andrew and Richard on their citations.

“All three have made incomparable contributions to our field of research, and we are honoured to not only host Professor Oswald as a Senior Research Fellow at our Centre, but to maintain the support of Lord Layard both as a member of the Centre’s Advisory Board, and that of the World Wellbeing Movement.

“Not only have we witnessed first-hand their own research contributions, but Andrew and Lord Layard’s continued encouragement for the next generation of wellbeing researchers is of great value to our field.”

Professor Lord Richard Layard, Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, said: “Wellbeing science has now reached the point where people’s wellbeing can be made the goal of every government.”

Professor Andrew Oswald, Professor of Economics and Behavioural Science at the University of Warwick, said: “I’m pleased to receive such an award, especially alongside colleagues I have known and respected for decades.”

The full list of Clarivate Citation Laureates for 2022 is available here. This year’s Nobel Prize announcements will be made 3-10 October.

Mary-Claire King & Andrew J. Oswald talk about encouragement – Citation Laureates 2022

*Citation Laureates were first established as ‘Thomson Reuters Citation Laureates’ in 1989. They have been awarded as Clarivate Citation Laureates since 2002.

Physical Pain, Gender, and the State of the Economy in 146 Nations

Lucía Macchia and Andrew J. Oswald

Physical pain is one of the most severe of human experiences. It is thus one of the most important to understand. This paper reports the first cross-country study of the links between physical pain and the state of the economy. A key issue examined is how the level of pain in a society is influenced by the unemployment rate. The study uses pooled cross-sectional Gallup data from 146 countries (total N > 1.3 million). It estimates fixed-effects regression equations that control for personal characteristics. 

This study provides the first cross-country evidence that the level of physical pain in a nation depends on the state of the economy. Pain is high when the unemployment rate is high. That is not because of greater pain among people who lose their jobs — it extends far beyond that into wider society. The increase in physical pain in a downturn is experienced disproportionately by women.

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Why Economists Believe 47.2 is Our Most Miserable Age

Financial Times

Misery has other ramifications, too. A new study, “(Un)Happiness and voting in US Presidential elections”, finds that the best predictor of voting for Donald Trump in 2016 was being unhappy or dissatisfied with your lot. That makes sense: if establishment politicians have failed to protect you from misery, it seems less crazy to roll the dice on a reality TV star, at least while he is the challenger rather than an incumbent.

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