Paper Diary

For every paper published, there's a story behind it... 

As you will be able to see, I owe a lot of my research outputs to Andrew Oswald


"Longitudinal evidence for a midlife nadir in human well-being: results from four data sets", with Terence C. Cheng and Andrew J. Oswald, Economic Journal127(599), 126-142.

While I was working in Australia back in 2013, I struck up a good friendship with Terence Cheng who was working as a research fellow at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the time (he's now at the University of Adelaide). He told me over lunch one day that he has access to a unique longitudinal data of medical doctors in Australia, and that one of the variables in the data set is a variable on doctor's life satisfaction! The really piqued my interest and we talked to each other about what to do with it. That was about the same time Andrew Oswald wrote to me about going back to working together again, this time on a project that would investigate whether or not we have any longitudinal evidence on the U-shaped life satisfaction in age. So I thought I'd bring Terence into this project as well, and together we used four longitudinal data sets (HILDA, BHPS, SOEP, and MABEL) to show that this is the case! There is indeed evidence of a midlife nadir in life satisfaction at around early 40 across all four data sets. We then submitted our paper first to PNAS, but was rejected within three months. We then tried our luck at the Economic Journal and were fortunate enough to get the paper accepted after two rounds of R&R. 


"Can having internal locus of control insure against negative shocks? Psychological evidence from panel data", with Hielke Buddelmeyer, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization122, 88-109.

During my last visit to Australia in January 2015, I thought t'd be good to do a project with my very good friend and colleague, Hielke, who was working at the Melbourne Institute at the time. Now Hielke isn't a happiness guy (although he seems to be very happy 24/7), but he's an expert on all things HILDA. Since I've just finished working on a paper on locus of control with my colleagues at LSE, I thought why not use HILDA to test one of the most important hypotheses about locus of control, i.e., that people who have internal locus of control are more psychologically resilient than others. Hielke took only a week to construct the data set for me to run the equations he and I have in mind. I then ran it and wrote the paper within two months. The paper was submitted to JEBO, and it was published there after only one round of R&R. We just couldn't be more pleased about it if we try!


"Can priming cooperation increase public good contributions?", with Michalis Drouvelis and Robert Metcalfe, Theory and Decision, 79, 479-492.

Another long-over-due paper. Michalis, Rob, and I first ran this experiment back in 2008 when Michalis and I were both still working as junior faculties at the University of York. I'm happy to say that I got the idea of priming from reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. And to our delight, we found that we can prime people to be more cooperative in a one-shot public good game just by getting them to do some word search game before playing the public good game itself. The paper received rejections from almost every where we submitted it to. Nevertheless, persistence pays and we managed to get the paper accepted at Theory and Decision after two rounds of R&R.  

"Are happier people less judgmental of other people's selfish behaviours? Experimental survey evidence from trust and gift exchange games", with Michalis Drouvelis, Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 58, 111-123.

This was a long-over-due lab experimental project with Michalis Drouvelis. We first ran this experiment together after I came up with an idea that happier people might find it hard to judge other people's immoral behaviours if these behaviours do not affect them directly in 2009 (simply because he/she's already quite happy and happy people tend to prefer the status quo). As anticipated, we found that happier people don't mind as much if they see other people behaving selfishly across different economic games. However, we had a hard time trying to convince economists of this paper's results (if you don't know by now, economists are especially tough nuts to crack!). We tried many places, including Journal of Public Economics (rejected) and Management Science (rejected). We ended up going with JBEE and I think we've made the right choice, given that JBEE's readers are probably our target audience anyway.

"Life satisfaction and sexual minorities: Evidence from Australia and the United Kingdom", with Mark Wooden, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 116, 107-126.

The brainchild of this paper was Mark Wooden. He told me over lunch one day while I was visiting Melbourne that both HILDA and UKHLS data sets have questions about respondent's sexual identities and that we should link them to data on life satisfaction. After talking it over some more, I've decided to adopt the simultaneous equation modelling (SEM) as the main method of analysis. The results were quite surprising: Much of the negative correlations between life satisfaction and being a sexual minority can be explained by the observed inequalities in marital status, health, and employment status. We tried JEBO first and, to our pleasant surprise, the editor and the referees really liked our approach. And there goes my first ever publication in JEBO after 10 years of trying!

"Would you pay for transparently useless advice? A test of boundaries of beliefs in the folly of predictions", with Yohanes Eko Riyanto, Review of Economics and Statistics, 97(2), 257-272.

This is (now) my most favourite paper to date. It's the one that gave me the highest possible sense of satisfaction every time I think about it. The idea came to me in 2009 when I was watching a TV show by Derren Brown. In this show (titled "The System"), Derren said that he has a systematic way to predict successfully winners at five consecutive horse races in a row. And that's exactly what he did! (I wouldn't bore you of how he did it, but if you're interested you can watch a talk that I gave on it here on YouTube). Anyway, I was very intrigued by it and wondered whether or not we could test this in a lab using coin flips. I remember telling other people in York about this idea, but didn't get very positive response. I then brought the idea with me to Singapore where I managed to convince my co-author Eko (as well as our behavioural economics mentor, Jack Knetsch, who was visiting NTU and advising us on many different wonderful things about peoples behaviours the time) about the idea. We then ran the experiments in Singapore as well as Thailand, and the results were unbelievable! I then spent a couple of weeks writing the paper, and we've tried AERQJERESTUD, and JPE (and SCIENCE) but they weren't interested. We then submitted it to RESTAT where the review took 364 days before getting back to us with a R&R decision. It then got accepted two months following our resubmission and Eko and I just couldn't be more proud of it if we tried!

"What's the good of education on our overall quality of life? A simultaneous equation model of education and life satisfaction for Australia", with Warn N. Lekfuangfu and Mark Wooden, Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 54, 10-21.

This paper wasn't supposed to be a paper. Warn came to work with me at LSE as a side project to her PhD (before being employed by Richard as an occasional researcher at the CEP in the Well-Being Group) and I told her to have a look at the links between education and life satisfaction in HILDA. At first, both of us - and Mark Wooden who I got involved as the authority on the HILDA data set - tried to write a causal mediation paper with education causally affecting income and then income in turn affects life satisfaction but we just had a hard time convincing people that it's a good idea, let alone possible to do. We submitted the paper first to EJ (rejected after a review) and then to Social Indicators Research (R&R twice before getting a rejection because the paper changed so much from the first draft!). We nearly gave up on the idea of publishing this paper until I thought we should at least give JBEE a go. And voila!  

"Does more education lead to better health habits? Evidence from the school reforms in Australia", with Jinhu Li, Social Science & Medicine, f127, 83-91.

Jinhu Li, who I met at Melbourne Institute, was originally interested in collaborating with me on a project to do with either mental health or happiness. However, I stumbled upon a call for papers by editors at SS&M for studies that could potentially appear in a special issue on education and health, which I thought would be perfect for us. This is because I'd only recently worked on the causal effects of school reforms in Australia in a separate paper. The only problem was that we'd only have three months to write it. And so Jinhu and I had to spend a lot of time writing this in October 2013. Luckily we were able to finish in time for the deadline. It was reviewed very quickly (3 months) and we got a R&R decision. It went through one more round of R&R before getting accepted. This is my third publication in SS&M to date and I couldn't be any happier. I'm sure Jinhu is, too. 


"What childhood characteristics predict psychological resilience to economic shocks in adulthood?", Journal of Economic Psychology, 45, 84-101.

This paper came about from having stumbled upon a question about "fear of being bullied" in the Youth BHPS one Saturday morning in late 2012. It then occurred to me that perhaps I could test whether adolescents who went through a lot of turbulent period during childhood are more or less psychologically resilient to job loss in the future. The idea was half-baked but the results were quite powerful: Children who had reported a lot of fear of being bullied in the past were more likely to be less resilient to unemployment as adults. However, the referees had some problems with the fear variable (as it is subjective by nature) which was used as an interaction with unemployment in adulthood - and so I had to ditch the bullying idea and concentrated on a whole array of childhood experiences instead. The paper was first submitted to Journal of Human Resource (desk rejected), Journal of Health Economics (rejected after review), Social Science & Medicine (desk rejected), JEBO (R&R and then I decided to withdraw after getting another round of impossible R&R), and then Journal of Economic Psychology which got accepted after one round of R&R.  

"Economic approaches to understanding change in happiness", with Alois Stutzer, in M. Sheldon and Richard E. Lucas (eds.), Stability of Happiness. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 

This was an easy paper to write. Alois approached me some time in 2012, asking whether or not I'd like to join him in writing a book chapter for Richard E. Lucas and M. Sheldon (both psychologists, I think). I took a month to write half of this paper and Alois did the rest. It is basically a review of stuff both of us have done in the past, which means that Alois probably ended up contributing around 90% of the stuff we had written since he's done so much more in his career than me. Compared to Alois, I'm afraid I'm still a novice...

"What predicts a successful life? A life-course model of well-being", with Richard Layard, Andrew E. Clark, Francesca Cornaglia, and James Vernoit, Economic Journal124(580), F720-F738.

This is perhaps one of the most challenging exercises I had to go through. The paper was Richard Layard's idea. James and I spent months on end constructing and analysing the data, and we held regular meetings with Andrew and Richard since my arrival at LSE. At the end of it all, Richard practically wrote the whole thing and I believe we were very fortunate to get it accepted and published in EJ in our first trial. P.S. I don't think I've written with this many people before in my career. It was an experience I'm not going to forget for a very long time!

"Do Different Work Characteristics Have Different Distributional Impacts on Job Satisfaction? A Study of Slope Heterogeneity in Workers’ Well-Being", with Aekapol Chongvilaivan, British Journal of Industrial Relations52(3), 426-444.

This paper is the first paper I've ever published with a fellow Thai colleague. Aekapol (Oan) and I met here in Singapore and we get on very well; I consider him to be my nemesis on the tennis court. But he's an economist first and a tennis star second and one day we thought it might be nice to write a paper together. He however is an expert on international trades. And given that I know virtually nothing about international trades, we agreed to write a paper together on job satisfaction. We decided to apply the recently developed estimation method on measures of job satisfaction in the BHPS. This method allows us to estimate the distributional (rather than the mean) effects of each job attributes on job satisfaction. After finishing the paper, we sent it out to the Scandinavian J of Econ first, which was rejected within 5 months. Then we decided that the paper might be better suited in the labour relations literature than the economics literature, and chose to submit it to the BJIR. It was accepted after two rounds of resubmission.


"Parental Unemployment and Children's Happiness: A Longitudinal Study of Young People's Well-Being in Unemployed Households", with James Vernoit, Labour Economics, 24, 253-263.

This was the first paper I'd written as a Principal Research Fellow at LSE. Part of my job here was to examine the effects of early life stuff (e.g. childhood characteristics and home environment) on our subjective well-being in the future. One of the questions I had was whether or not changes in parental unemployment status affect changes in children's happiness. And since not many people had used the BHPS Youth Survey, I thought it was about time that we do something about it. So I made an agreement with James, who was a research officer here at CEP at the time, that we'll do this paper together. The paper was written within three months, and we've tried JEBO first. It then got rejected. Then we tried Labour Economics and voila! P.S. I have to say that Ian Walker, who was the Chief Editor of LE then, was very kind and very sympathetic to our cause (otherwise I don't think our paper would have been accepted, given that not every labour economist is a big fan of happiness research).

"Is Personality Fixed? Personality Changes as Much as “Variable” Economic Factors and More Strongly Predicts Changes to Life Satisfaction", with Christopher Boyce and Alex Wood, Social Indicators Research111(1), 287-305.

I woke up one morning in April 2011 to find an interesting publication by Andrew Oswald's former PhD student, Chris, and his co-author, Alex Wood, in the forthcoming issue in JEBO. The artcile was on the interaction effects between the Big Five Personalities and income on life satisfaction. After reading it, I thought it would be nice to email Chris to ask whether he and Alex would like to work together with me on a couple of projects looking at the exogenous effects of income on personalities. I didn't have to wait long until Chris wrote back and told me that he and Alex have already started thinking about this project, and would like me to get involved. So we began working together in the summer of 2011. We ended up with two papers. The first one (which was more Chris and Alex's doing than mine) was this piece; it basically asks whether changes in personalities influence changes in the life satisfaction more than changes in other life events. It appears that it does - it definitely explains a lot more of the life satisfaction variance over time. The second paper (which was more my doing) was about the effect of lottery as a source of exogenous incomes on personalities. This second one is still under-review. But the first paper came out first in the Social Indicators Research, and I have to say that Chris and Alex have done a brilliant job constructing the paper and ultimately deserve a lot more credits for it than I do.


"Thinking About It: A Note on Attention and Well-Being Losses from Unemployment", with Paul Dolan, Applied Economics Letters, 19(4), 325-328.

This paper came after one of the meetings I had with Paul Dolan in 2006 in London. He and I thought that it would be nice to test one of Daniel Kahneman and David Schkade's theory on focusing illusion. So, we did this test by looking at whether unemployed individuals who also reported unemployment to be one of the major life events that took place that year were significantly unhappier compared to the unemployed individuals who did not report unemployment when asked about their significant life events in the past 12 months. It was first rejected from AER and JPE. We then submitted it to the Economics Letters, hoping for the best. However, it was only after 9 months that the manuscript was first sent out to referees. And that referee happened to be Paul Dolan, my coauthor of the paper (in hindsight, he should have written back and say "What an excellent paper! You should accept it immediately!). We had to wait two years and a half to get a response back which was a one-page rejection letter. After getting so angry at the EL's process, we decided to submit the paper to Applied Economics Letters and was accepted without having to revise anything. Take that, EL!

"Jobless, Friendless, and Broke: What Happens to Different Areas of Life Before and After Unemployment?", Economica, 79(315), 557-575.

This is another spin-off from my paper on disability which was published in 2009 in Social Science & Medicine. The idea was exactly the same, just applied it to unemployment. It went through a couple of rejections, including Journal of Labor Economics and Journal of European Economic Association, but then found its home on its third try at Economica, the journal which published my first paper on crime and happiness. This is also a special publication as it marks my 20th international publication, a feat which I was fortunate to achieve in only 5 years out of my PhD. That gives me an average of 5 publications per year so far, a better goal-to-game average than Gary Lineker, my football idol.


"Anticipation, Free-Rider Problem, and Adaptation to Trade Union: Re-examining the Curious Case of Dissatisfied Union Members", Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 64(5), 1000-1019.

I was inspired to write this paper after reading a couple of papers on job satisfaction and union membership (how can union members be less satisfied with job compared to nonmembers?). The name comes from the film "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". It was rejected once before got taken up by ILRR.

"Putting Different Price Tags on the Same Health Condition: Re-evaluating the Well-Being Valuation Approach", with Bernard van den Berg, Journal of Health Economics, 30(5), 1032-1043

The idea for this paper came about when I met Bernard in 2007 in Thailand. He and I were attending a conference on happiness and public policy together. I presented my paper on putting a price tag on social relationships (see J of Socio-Economics, 2008) when he approached me and asked whether I would be interested in writing a paper with him on using the same method I used to measure friendships to measure health losses. It took us more than 4 years to write (well, we kind of lost touch for like a year in 2008). We finally finished a paper in March 2011 and submitted the paper to the Journal of Health Economics which, to our delight, got accepted for publication after one revise & resubmit.

"Destruction and Distress: Using a Quasi-Experiment to Show the Effects of the September 11 Attacks on Subjective Well-Being in the UK", with Robert Metcalfe and Paul Dolan, Economic Journal, 121(550), F81-F103

Robert Metcalfe, then a PhD student at Imperial College London, came to me with an idea of a quasi-experiment on the effect of the 9/11 attacks on the well-being of people in the UK. I was quite reluctant at first, given that I wasn't familiar with the method he described (I was never a good econometrics student - always have to learn things from outside lectures), but Rob's idea was so convincing that I thought I'd give it a try. And it worked out perfectly. Rob then invited Paul Dolan to co-write the paper with us and the rest is history. But we did go through a several rejections from top Economics and Medical journals though, until I thought that EJ Features might like a quirky findings such as this and we eventually tried there. And voila! Only my second publication at EJ :)


"Does Education Reduce the Risk of Hypertension? Estimating the Biomarker Effect of Compulsory Schooling in England", Journal of Human Capital, 4(2), 173-202.

This paper was conceived in July 2009 when I was in York, sitting on my sofa whilst watching Saturday telly. I was, at the time, learning this new econometric method called "Regression Discontinuity". It took me a several trials before getting the hang of the approach (or design). I had also just seen Andrew Oswald's paper on happiness and hypertension and thought it would be neat to estimate the causal effect of schooling on the risk of developing it (hypertension, not happiness) in the latter part of the life cycle. The paper was rejected, first at the AER and then AEJ:Applied Economics, but then eventually found its home (after several revisions) at the new Journal of Human Capital (with editorial board such as Gary Beckers and James Heckman, I'm sure - or rather, I hope - it will turn out to be a good investment for me)

"How Much Does Money Really Matter? Estimating the Causal Effects of Income on Happiness", Empirical Economics,39(1), 77-92.

This paper is a spin-off from my paper with Andrew on death and compensatory damages. I had wanted to write an applied paper that empirically teases out the true effect of income on happiness, and I think I kind of pull it off with this one. Hopefully, it will turn out to be useful for happiness economists and policy makers out there.  

 "Daughters and Leftwing Voting" with Andrew Oswald, The Review of Economics and Statistics, 92(2), 213-227 (Leading article)

Andrew came to visit me at IoE back in 2006. He had just come back from a visiting post at Harvard and, boy, did he have a good idea for a paper. He told me that he was very impressed with Ebonya Washington's presentation on the effect of daughters on senator's tendency to be pro-liberal and was wondering whether we could do something similar but on a much bigger scale. We agreed on having a look at the BHPS and see whether daughters have any significant correlations with people's tendency to vote for Labour or Lib Dem party. And imagine our surprise that they do! 

I remember that I did this paper's empirical bits in one weekend (looking for plausible empirical strategies and doing the estimates, etc.) and Andrew wrote it in less than two weeks. We then had a press release for it, which got on the Guardian's front page. I also had to do a couple of radio interviews for it, which was quite fun. Andrew also went on a BBC radio show where our findings got called ridiculous by one of the journalists. He (Andrew, not the journalist) took it in his stride, really. He basically told her (though not in so many words) that she's going to have a hard time arguing with hard numbers. Since then, our paper has been replicated using the German data, the US, and the Aussie data. Finally got the paper accepted for publication at RESTAT after two years of having completed the paper. 


"What Happens to People Before and After Disability? Focusing Effects, Lead Effects, and Adaptation in Different Areas of Life", Social Science & Medicine, 69, 1834-1844.

The idea for this paper came from a presentation I did on "Does happiness adapt?" at an invited seminar at Sheffield University. Thanks to Tess (Peasgood) who invited me and Aki Tsuchiya who gave really good comments on the paper, I came up with an idea to test whether different domain satisfactions vary significantly before and after disability. And it's a good thing that they do!

"I Can't Smile Without You: Spousal Correlation in Life Satisfaction", Journal of Economic Psychology, 30(4), 675-689.

If somebody had asked me, "Which paper are you most proud of?", I'd probably coil slighly and say this one. I mean, I am proud of all my papers, especially the ones I've done all on my own. But this one has to come up trump.

The idea came to me in 2004, when I was in my 2nd year PhD. I had wanted to test whether happiness is transferrable between partners in a romantic relationship. But there is this issue about endogeneity (how can we find an instrumental variable that affects one partner's happiness but not the other's?). I remember telling Andrew about this idea and he said he loved it. But it's going to be extremely difficult trying to achieve identification. I don't remember exactly what I did with the first version now, but I think I used each partner's subjective health as IV. First submitted it to the Review of Economics Studies, and got a rejection within 8 months. Then AER. Then JPEQJEJournal of Human Resources (twice at different times), Journal of Marriage and Family (revised and resubmitted three times), Journal of Family PsychologyJournal of Royal Statistical Society Series A (revise and resubmitted three times), Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, and Psychological Science.  Needless to say, the submission was done in sequence. Also, needless to say, all rejected the original version of the paper. Then I got a breakthrough at the Journal of Economic Psychology when I got some great referee comments that I can use GMM-system to solve the identification problems. I re-did the paper and, as I had always been confident that it would, it worked out perfectly! I remember whooping for joy when I got accepted. 

I know that J of Econ Psy is not the best journals in the world and I should have been more proud with the papers I've done with Andrew which got accepted in higher-ranked journals. But to finally have it accepted after 15 rejections in 5 years, I just couldn't be more proud of it if I try...

"The Socio-economic Gap in University Drop Out", with Anna Vignoles, The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, Vol. 9: Iss. 1 (Topics), Article 19.

This paper was written when I was employed as a research officer at the Institute of Education in London. My former line-manager (now colleague) Anna Vignoles was probably one of the nicest bosses you could come across for your first post in academia. We did this work together over the course of my three years there - my first work on the economics of education. 

Book review: "Bernard Van Praag and Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell's Happiness Quantified: A Satisfaction Calculus Approach. Revised Version. Oxford University Press.", Journal of Economic Literature, 47(1), 204-207

The book review request from JOEL came to me in November 2008 in a completely unexpected way. Since I've never done a book review before, this was a very pleasant surprise, and what a challenge! The book itself was a little hard to read (it fills with a lot of stats and regression equations) but I really enjoyed the task (especially the one about having to come up with an eye-catching opening line!).

"How Important is Rank to Individual Perception of Economic Standing? A Within-Community Analysis", Journal of Economic Inequality, 7(3), 225-248.

This is a spin-off from two papers. One comes from my Indonesian paper (published in AEJ), and the other is from Andrew Oswald et al's paper on well-being rank in the workplace. I remember having this idea of testing Andrew's theory using the Indo data. But instead of looking at the workplace, I decided to look at the community-level comparison of ranks instead. I remember spending hours after hours in my room at 179 Queen Alexandra Palace in London cleaning this hard to clean Indonesian panel data. I was so pleased to get it done within a month, and decided to send it off to one of the top rank journals straightaway. However, it was rejected the next morning. I then re-submitted it again that very same afternoon (to a different high-ranking journal). Then, to my horror, got rejected the next morning. That's the first time (and hopefully the only time) I've ever been rejected twice for the same paper in one day. But knowing the world of publication, I revised it one more time and kept on trying. Finally got it accepted at the JoEI after one revise and resubmit.

"Think having children will make you happy?", The Psychologist, 22(4), 308-311.

Jon Sutton, the editor of The Psychologist wrote to me one day in late 2008, asking whether I might be interested in writing an article about the famous children-happiness paradox, i.e. the evidence that having children does not associate with higher happiness. It took me a couple of days to think about a plausible explanation for this phenomenon, and Daniel Kahneman et al's focusing effect seems like the perfect missing piece of the jigzaw. This is probably one of my most favourite papers - even if I didn't analyse the data myself (all thanks must go to Andrew Clark et al's paper on leads and lags in job satisfaction). This is simply because it is the only paper (so far) that I got to mention my girlfriend, Jun, in there.

"Ill-Health as a Household Norm: Evidence from Other People's Health Problems", Social Science & Medicine, 68, 251-259

This paper was quite a joy to write. It, again, is a spin-off from my Crime and Unemployment papers (most credits go to Andrew Clark's original idea here). The idea that I had was quite simple: Do people with chronic diseases report higher levels of subjective health status (i.e. do they they they are healthier) when there are more ill people around in the same household. As it turns out, they do - but the effect is not as large as I thought it would be.


"Death, Happiness, and the Calculation of Compensatory Damages", with Andrew Oswald, Journal of Legal Studies, 37(S2), June, S217-S252

Andrew phoned me up one day telling me that he was invited to go to a law & economics conference at the University of Chicago and had to come up with a good paper that is publishable in the Journal of Legal Studies, which basically is a law journal. He proposed the idea about death to me, and asked whether there might be a way to test the impact of death on well-being more systematically. I'm not sure whether I should say 'luckily' or not, but the BHPS has a couple of questions about the important events that took place in the last year and we had a significant number of deaths in that data set. The whole analysis on my part took, I think it was, 2 weekends and a paper was completed within a few weeks. It was quite a grim paper (in terms of the research topic) but, boy, do we love it!

"Does Happiness Adapt? A Longitudinal Study of Disability with Implications for Economists and Judges", with Andrew Oswald, Journal of Public Economics, 92, 1061-1077

This is the first paper I've ever written with Andrew (I've never written a paper with him while I was still his student back at Warwick). Andrew came to London - I think it was during the Easter term in 2005 - and we went and have sushi near Tottenham Court Road. Again, adaptation was more of Andrew's idea than mine, but I came up with the method of testing it (well, I based the methodology on one of Andrew Clark's paper on the scarring of unemployment). We finished this paper in less than a month. It was rejected a couple of times from top economic journals, but eventually found its home at the Journal of Public Economics.

"Putting a Price Tag on Friends, Relatives, and Neighbours: Using Surveys of Life-Satisfaction to Value Social Relationships", Journal of Socio-Economics, 37(4), 1459-1480 

The idea for this paper came to me while I was in a car with Antony (Harfield), coming back from a trip in London. I was sitting on the front seat, and suddenly I had the urge of wanting to do some thing on loneliness and happiness. The idea of calculating for 'how much does seeing a friend every day worth?' comes a few months later after completing my PhD. 

This paper also allowed me to give my very first, as well as my very own, press release at the IoE. I remember that I had to give around 20 radio interviews in the course of two weeks. I also had to wake up early one day to give a radio interview for an Australia radio programme, whilst still in my PJs and all...

"Mental Health of Parents and Life Satisfaction of Children: A Within-Family Analysis of Intergenerational Transmission of Well-Being", with Anna Vignoles, Social Indicators Research, 88(3), 397-422

Anna Vignoles, my very first boss, was very generous to me whilst I was working for her at the IoE. She told me that it would be ok to spend - maybe half the time of my research hours - to do whatever I like in terms of research. So I brought her in to work on a little project of mine, which focuses on whether happiness is transferrable between parents and children. I'm also very proud of this paper as it was accepted without revision at Social Indicators Researchafter spending only about two or three weeks there...     


"Feeling Richer or Poorer than Others: A Cross-sectional and Panel Analysis of Subjective Economic Status in Indonesia", Asian Economic Journal, 21(2), 169-194

I was very nearly going to give up with this paper. I think I spent ages revising it for my PhD that I became sick of seeing it. The file was in my computer for a long while until one day when I was visiting my family in Thailand, I thought I'll give it another go and try for an academic journal in Asia. I was very fortunate to get a good editor who really cares about this paper at the Asian Economic Journal, and it was accepted after one revision.

"Obesity, Unhappiness, and The Challenge of Affluence: Theory and Evidence", with Andrew Oswald, Economic Journal, 117 (June), F441-454

Although it was the second paper I wrote with Andrew, it was published before our disability paper. Andrew called me one day in 2006 asking whether we could do something on obesity and well-being. He said that he was asked to do a book review for Avner Offer's The Challenge of Affluence for Economic Journal, and thought that we might be able to add some analysis of our own as a complement. I, of course, jumped at the chance and did a quick study of the BHPS for him. To date, it is one of the most cited papers that I have with him. 

"Are There Geographical Variations in the Psychological Costs of Unemployment in South Africa?", Social Indicators Research, 80(3), 629-652

The unemployment paper was the 2nd chapter of my PhD thesis (and my 2nd paper to be published in a journal). I distinctly remember that I got this idea of doing a replication of Andrew Clark's work using the South African data set while I was watching TV in Thailand. Funnily enough, this paper brought me a little bit of a bother as it was accepted for a publication at one of the South African journals while I was in my 2nd year PhD. However, Andrew believed that I could get it published somewhere else better. With that, I decided to write to apologise to the journal's editor that I won't be publishing my paper there. He didn't like that decision one bit and questioned my ethics in his reply, which he cc: to me and to Mike Devereux, who was the head of the department of economics at Warwick at that time. I was both distraught and scared - I mean, I didn't know whether I am going to be put on the Black List in terms of getting future papers published - but Andrew told me that if the journal can reject our papers, we have the right to reject our papers from publishing there. I knew it was one of those risky decisions, but I took Andrew's advice, which turned out to be a good one. I got rejected one more time after that from another journal, but then it got accepted in its first submission to Social Indicators Research

"Happiness and the Standard of Living: The Case of South Africa" In (eds) Bruni, L. and Porta, P.L. (eds) Handbook on the Economics of Happiness (pp. 447-486). Edward Elgar: UK 

Well, this was my first chapter - the first piece of proper research work I've ever written. I presented the results at the Happiness Conference in Milan, 2003, and for some reason, it got accepted as one of the contributing chapters in the Handbook of the Economics of Happiness book.


"Unhappiness and Crime: Evidence from South Africa", Economica, 72, 531-547

My first publication! I remember getting a letter from Economica - a proper letter, and not an email - sometimes in 2003. At the top of that letter, it said 'Regretfully we have decided to reject your paper'. I didn't need to read on - I knew I got rejected. Again. But when I took the letter to my office and told Rea (Reamonn Lydon), my then office mate, he told me that it's actually a revise and resubmit decision, and not a rejection. That was when I thought - Man, there's a chance for this paper after all!

The revision took a week, and the decision to accept if for publication came around 2 months after my resubmission. I remember receiving the email, ran to Jun's house, and celebrated for 2 days. Nothing beats your first ever publication, I think!