Monthly Archives: November 2006

Why Aspiring Economists Need Math

When teaching mathematics for economists to freshmen, I try to explain why is it that studetns being trained in economics need math. Greg Mankiw in the post Why Aspiring Economists Need Math
offers some possible explanation.


Happiness research and the teaching of microeconomics

I have been reading an excellent paper by Alois Stutzer & Bruno S. Frey. What Happiness Research Can Tell Us About Self-Control Problems. Here is the abstract:

Neoclassical economic theory rules out systematic errors in consumption choice. According to the basic view, individuals know what they choose. They are able to predict how much utility an activity or a good produces for them now and in the future and they can maximize their utility. This implies that behavior reveals consistent preferences. This approach makes it impossible to detect and understand sub-optimal consumption decisions, due to problems of self-control and the misprediction of utility. We propose the economics of happiness as a methodological approach to study these phenomena. Based on proxy measures for experienced utility, it is, in principle, possible to directly address whether some observed behavior is sub-optimal and is therefore reducing a personís well-being. We discuss recent evidence on smoking and eating habits, TV viewing and commuting choice.

This is yet another paper of the fast growing literature on happiness and economics. Reading it, I started wondering: are the results from happiness research having any influence on the way introductory courses in microeconomics are being taught? It would be interesting to find out. In my university Intermediate Microeconomics by Hal Varian is the course book and as far as I am aware it does not incorporate findings in happiness research. Is anyone aware of course books that do so?

Seattle's road pricing experiment

Greg Mawkin’s blog links to an interesting article on the Seattle’s road pricing experiment. Apparently: ‘participants took 5 percent fewer auto trips and drove 2.5 percent fewer miles each weekday because of the tolls. The drop was even more dramatic during peak-traffic periods, when tolls were highest: 10 percent fewer trips and 4 percent fewer miles in the morning, 6 percent fewer trips and 11 percent fewer miles at night.’

International conference on the policies for happiness: call for papers

International conference on the policies for happiness: call for papers. The conference will take place in Siena, Italy 14-17 June 2007. Abstract should be submitted by 31 January 2007. The questions addressed in the conference are going to be ‘what should be done to improve the quality of people’s lives? Can economic and social changes be made which enhance well-being? What policies are required? How do policies for well-being differ from traditional ones targeted on redistribution, the correction of market inefficiencies, and growth? Are there dimensions of well-being that have been neglected by traditional policies? Is happiness a meaningful policy target?
In the description of the conference is added that: ‘An answer to these questions may require an inter-disciplinary approach (economics, sociology, psychology, political science, urban science, anthropology, neuroscience). By means of this conference we intend to encourage a discussion among scholars of different disciplines with the aim of promoting research on economic, social and cultural reforms which are capable of generating well-being.‘ – A CONFERENCE NOT TO BE MISSED.