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Superstitions, street traffic, and subjective well-being

  • Author(s): Anderson, Michael L
  • Lu, Fangwen
  • Zhang, Yiran
  • Yang, Jun
  • Qin, Ping
  • et al.

Published Web Location

https://are.berkeley.edu/~mlanderson/pdf/license_plates.pdf
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Abstract

Congestion plays a central role in urban and transportation economics. Existing estimates of congestion costs rely on stated or revealed preferences studies. We explore a complementary measure of congestion costs based on self-reported happiness. Exploiting quasi-random variation in daily congestion in Beijing that arises because of superstitions about the number four, we estimate a strong effect of daily congestion on self-reported happiness. When benchmarking this effect against the relationship between income and self-reported happiness we compute implied congestion costs that are several times larger than conventional estimates. Several factors, including the value of reliability and externalities on non-travelers, can reconcile our alternative estimates with the existing literature.

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