Category Archives: Happiness

Happiness and Relational Goods conference

Happiness and Relational Goods: Well-being & Interp. Relat. in the Econ. Sphere
in Venice,Italy
from 11. June 2009 to 13. June 2009
Deadline for paper submissions: 09. February 2009
JEL classification(s): A, B, D, H, I, J, N, O, R, Z
Further information at:

Subjective well-being

A review of recent happiness research by Paul Dolan, Tessa Peasgood and Mathew White is coming out on the Journal of Economic Psychology:
Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. In Press, Accepted Manuscript, Available online 19 September 2007,

Seminar on Happiness, Satisfaction, and Subjective Measures of Well-Being

Erik Angner, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Economics at the University of
Alabama at Birmingham, will be giving a seminar on
Happiness, Satisfaction, and Subjective Measures of Well-Being
Monday 28.5.2007, 14-16 at the Department of Social and Moral Philosophy of the University of Helsinki,
Siltavuorenpenger 20 A, lecture room 334d (3rd floor).
Here is the abstract on his paper:


“Subjective measures of well-being, which are based on
answers to questions such as “Taking things all together, how would
you say things are these days – would you say you’re very happy,
pretty happy, or not too happy these days?,” are often presented as
more direct, and therefore superior to, more traditional economic
measures of welfare. This paper explores what account of well-being
is implicit in the literature on subjective measures, and in light of
the analysis, examines some of the claims made for them. I will argue
that the accounts of well-being are best classified as mental state
accounts (though there are potential exceptions); that proponents of
subjective measures appear to disagree among themselves about what
mental state (or states) is (or are) constitutive of well-being;
that, either way, these mental state accounts are implausible as
accounts of well-being; and that as a result, subjective measures
cannot be defended as more direct than other measures. Though I end
up rejecting some of the claims made by proponents of subjective
measures, however, I do not dismiss the use of such measures altogether.”

The full paper is available at:

Erik Angner is currently co-authoring (with George
Loewenstein) a book titled Foundations of Behavioral Economics.

Conference announcement: Is happiness measurable and what do those measures mean for policy?

Is happiness measurable and what do those measures mean for policy?
in Rome, Italy from 2. April 2007 to 3. April 2007.

Attendance is by invitation only (there is no registration fee). Requests to attend may be submitted via e-mail ( and should include all relevant details (including CV) concerning both interest and qualifications for attendance.

Further information at:

On Measuring Happiness

James Farrell on Club Troppo nicely summarizes Richard Layard’s thesis on happiness (see Happiness: Lessons from a New Science). The comments to the post are also very interesting.
Crooked Timber offers one such comment on the measurement of happiness. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve long argued that these questions can’t really tell us anything, and an example given by Don Arthur gives me the chance to put it better than I’ve done before, I hope.

Suppose you wanted to establish whether children’s height increased with age, but you couldn’t measure height directly.

One way to respond to this problem would be to interview groups of children in different classes at school, and asked them the question Don suggests “On a scale of 1 to 10, how tall are you?”. My guess is that the data would look pretty much like reported data on the relationship between happiness and income.

That is, within the groups, you’d find that kids who were old relative to their classmates tended to be report higher numbers than those who were young relative to their classmates (for the obvious reason that, on average, the older ones would in fact be taller than their classmates).

But, for all groups, I suspect you’d find that the median response was something like 7. Even though average age is higher for higher classes, average reported height would not change (or not change much).

So you’d reach the conclusion that height was a subjective construct depending on relative, rather than absolute, age. If you wanted, you could establish some sort of metaphorical link between being old relative to your classmates and being “looked up to”.

But in reality, height does increase with (absolute) age and the problem is with the scaling of the question. A question of this kind can only give relative answers.

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 person’s 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?