A long tradition in economics explores the association between the quality of formal institutions and economic performance. The literature on the relationship between such institutions and happiness is, however, rather limited, and inconclusive. In this paper, we revisit the findings from recent cross-country studies on the institution-happiness association. Our findings suggest that their conclusions are qualitatively rather insensitive to the specific measure of 'happiness' used, while the associations between formal institutions and subjective well-being differ among poor and rich countries. Separating different types of institutional quality, we find that in low-income countries the effects of economic-judicial institutions on happiness dominate those of political institutions, while analyses restricted to middle- and high-income countries show strong support for an additional beneficial effect of political institutions. Our results bear important implications that we discuss in the concluding section of the paper.
European Journal of Political Economy, 2010, Vol 26, Issue 4, p. 419-430