Does Money Buy Happiness in Unhappy Russia?
Surveys rank Russians among the unhappiest people in the world. Contrary to popular accounts of a uniquely melancholic national character, the subjective wellbeing of Russians depends heavily on both individual and collective economic wellbeing. Individual differences in living standards account for much of the variation in happiness levels among Russians in cross-sectional survey data. These effects are particularly sharp when we expand our measure of economic status beyond income to incorporate household wealth. Individual changes in wealth, however, cannot explain the recent, dramatic improvement in the distribution of happiness in Russia. Based on panel analysis of longitudinal survey data, this shift should be attributed to the collective experience of recovery from the shock of the 1998 ruble crisis, rather than to individual economic trajectories.