Does Joining the EU Make You Happy? Evidence from Bulgaria and Romania

Milena Nikolova*, Boris Nikolaev

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


We examine the effect of joining the European Union on individual life satisfaction in Bulgaria and Romania in the context of the 2007 EU enlargement. Although EU membership is among the most important events in Bulgaria and Romania's modern histories, there is no evidence on how it affected the subjective well-being of ordinary people in the two countries. Using a difference-in-differences strategy and Eurobarometer data, we provide some of the first evidence that joining the EU increased average life satisfaction in Bulgaria and had a positive but statistically insignificant effect in Romania. One explanation is that after both countries joined in 2007, trust towards the EU only increased in Bulgaria but not in Romania. Furthermore, Romania's political war of 2007 may have mired the country's positive life satisfaction experiences related to EU membership. We also show that the younger, the employed and those with a high-school education were the winners from EU integration. Our results are robust to two placebo tests, in which we use two fake entry dates to the EU, as well as an estimation using bootstrapped standard errors. Our findings have implications for EU integration policy and future enlargements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1593-1623
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Subjective well-being
  • Happiness
  • Transition economies
  • Difference-in-differences
  • European Union
  • EU enlargement

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