Är lycka smittsam?

Adam Smith hävdar, i Theory of Moral Sentiments, att människor blir lyckliga av andras lycka:

How selfish soever a man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.

Jag har hittills trott att han hade fel. En ny studie av John Knight och Ramani Gunatilaka, ”Is Happiness Infectuous?”, tyder på att det är jag som har haft fel, i alla fall gällande förhållandena på Kinas landsbygd och när andras lycka mäts som genomsnittlig lycka i den by man bor i:

lyckliga kineserThe paper uses an appropriate survey from rural China to answer the question: Is happiness infectious, i.e. does the happiness of an individual depend positively on the happiness of their reference group? The evidence is consistent with this hypothesis, but the challenge is to solve the ”reflection problem”, i.e. is the apparent effect of neighbours’ happiness on own happiness a causal one or merely a reflection? A ”quasi-panel” approach is adopted, treating villages as groups and individuals as multiple observations within each group, and using an error components 2SLS estimator. The results suggest that a major part of the relationship is indeed causal.

Adam Smith har alltid rätt, det borde jag veta vid det här laget. (Fast jag undrar om resultaten skulle bli annorlunda i en kinesisk eller västerländsk storstad…)