HAPPINESS OF THE SELF-EMPLOYED: A research synthesis using an on-line findings-archive

Jiequn Liu & Ruut Veenhoven

EHERO working paper 2018-7, Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization  


Question: Self-employment involves advantages and disadvantages and it is worth knowing what the balance of the effects is and how that balance varies across persons and situations, in particular for people who face a choice between self-employment and wage-employment.

We take stock of the available research findings on the relation between self-employment and happiness. We focus on happiness in the sense of life-satisfaction.

We draw on the World Database of Happiness, in which we found 138 correlations, reported in 34 publications. This online ‘findings archive’ holds electronic ‘finding pages’ on which research results are described in a standard format and terminology. In this paper, we use links to these finding pages and this allows us to summarize the main trends in the data in a few tabular schemes.

The available findings show that generally the self-employed are a bit happier than their native general public but less happy than the wage-employed. Wage-employed and unemployed become happier after change to self-employed, but the self-employed tend to get somewhat less happy over time. As opportunity entrepreneurs, the self-employed who change from wage-employed are happier than the others who change from unemployed to become necessity entrepreneurs.

The available data tell us little about variation in the effect of self-employment for different kinds of people.

Keywords: happiness, life-satisfaction, employment arrangement, review

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