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The Macroeconomics of Love: A Valentine’s Day Analysis

Who says there’s no romance in macroeconomics? Betsey Stevenson and I are currently working on a paper for a forthcoming Brookings Panel, assessing the relationship between levels of economic development and various measures of subjective well-being.

We are working with an absolutely fabulous data set: the Gallup World Poll. The good folks at Gallup are now surveying people in more than 130 countries every year. And they are asking all sorts of interesting questions about subjective well-being.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, let me give you a sneak peek of our findings on love and economic development.

Justin Wolfers Graph Love

It turns out that love is incredibly democratic, and is as common in poor countries as it is in rich countries. And, encouragingly, about 70 percent of us report feeling a lot of love on any given day. This isn’t as obvious as it may sound, as love’s enemy, anger, is significantly more prevalent in poor countries than in rich.

The data suggest some interesting places to look for love: the Philippines, Rwanda, and Puerto Rico top the “love tables.” Meanwhile those in Armenia, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan are feeling the least love. (Unfortunately, the love question wasn’t asked in the United States.)

While subjective data are relatively new to economics, I’m very excited by what we can learn, and will be sure to get back to you with more results as our research continues.

Now that we can measure something about Gross National Love, you can be sure that economists will start theorizing about it, and crunching these data to test their theories. What is your theory of love, and how might we test it in the data?