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CBE’s Professor Markus Brueckner awarded for outstanding research

Prof. Brueckner awarded for outstanding research

8 November 2016

Professor Markus Brueckner from the ANU Research School of Economics has been awarded over $AU800,000 in the latest round of Australian Research Council (ARC) funding, in the category of Future Fellowships.

The Future Fellowships scheme supports research in areas of critical national importance by giving outstanding researchers incentives to conduct their research in Australia.

Professor Brueckner’s project aims to examine the effects of income from international commodity price windfalls on peoples’ well-being, analysing both objective and subjective measures of well-being at both the cross-country time-series and the sub-national levels, tailored to the Australian economy.

CBE Communications sat down with Professor Brueckner to gain further insights into the project.

How did the project come about?

The project addresses a significant question in social sciences: What is the effect of material wealth on peoples' well-being?

This question is at the root of social science and has a longstanding history.(Plato in TheRepublic, Book IX, for example, presents an erudite philosophical discourse on whether a person, driven by desire, will experience happiness from material gain.) The research project uses data and econometric techniques to answer the above question.

A widely cited paper in the relevant empirical literature is Easterlin (1974). Easterlin's claim is that there is no effect of income on a nation's well-being (Easterlin paradox). The claim is based on time-series analysis of national income and self-reported measures of happiness in the United States for the period between 1947 and 1970. There exists controversy, however, in the empirical literature to what extent Easterlin's claim holds. Stevenson and Wolfers (2008), for example, using data for multiple countries and several decades, find a significant positive correlation between a country's aggregate income and the average life satisfaction of its citizens.

Is there a novel approach you’re taking to the project?

The research project aims to advance knowledge along two dimensions:

  1. Conceptual: (i) Theory suggests that different sources of income have different effects on well-being; this project focuses on income windfalls arising from booms and busts in international commodity prices. (ii) The country-wide effect may differ from the group-specific effect; the Easterlin paradox is about (the absence of) a country-wide effect.
  2. Methodological: The project aims to identify causal effects -- as opposed to correlations that are silent about the direction of causality. The project will examine short-run and long-run effects; country-wide effects (i.e. of national income on a nation's well-being) and group-specific effects (i.e. of the income of a group of individuals on this group's well-being).

It is expected that the project’s findings will benefit academia, public policy makers and everyday people, informing academics and policy makers about how income from international commodity price windfalls affects peoples' well-being.

Updated:   2 March 2017 / Responsible Officer:  CBE Communications and Outreach / Page Contact:  College Web Team