Innoculation or Scar: Recession Exposure and Well-Being

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Description: Low subjective well-being arises from differences between experiences and expectations, often identified through social comparisons. Many studies have investigated how individual exposures to large changes in unemployment rates impact subjective well-being. This study expands prior research by investigating how large scale historical events such as recessions influence subjective well-being through cohort socialization. This theory predicts first that exposure to recessions in young adulthood changes cultural outlooks. These changes in outlook include differences in intergenerational comparative expectations (ICE), or comparisons of an individuals’ standard of living to his/her parents and children. Second, these differences in ICE correlate with differences in subjective well-being based upon exposure to recessions in young adulthood. Using logistic models for the General Social Survey (GSS) repeated cross-sections (1994-2014) and logistic models adjusted for individual effects across three GSS panels of three years each (2006-2014). This study finds evidence of cohort socialization as follows: (1) experiencing a recession in young adulthood is associated with different levels of subjective well-being; (2) experience with a short recession in young adulthood is correlated with better subjective well-being, while experiencing a long recession scars subjective well-being; and (3) differences in temporal comparisons partially mediate these differences in subjective well-being.

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