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Choices, situations, and happiness

  • Koszegi, Botond
  • Rabin, Matthew

This article explores some conceptual issues in the study of well-being using the traditional economic approach of inferring preferences solely from choice behavior. We argue that choice behavior alone can never reveal which situations make people better off, even with unlimited data and under the maintained hypothesis of 100% rational choice. Ancillary assumptions or additional forms of data such as happiness measures are always needed. With such ancillary assumptions and additional data, however, the use of revealed preference to study well-being can be significantly improved, so that the choices people make can jointly identify preferences, mistakes, and well-being.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 92 (2008)
Issue (Month): 8-9 (August)
Pages: 1821-1832

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:8-9:p:1821-1832
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  1. Markus K. Brunnermeier & Jonathan A. Parker, 2002. "Optimal Expectations," Working Papers 146, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Discussion Papers in Economics..
  2. Tversky, Amos & Thaler, Richard H, 1990. "Anomalies: Preference Reversals," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 4(2), pages 201-11, Spring.
  3. Oreopoulos, Philip, 2007. "Do dropouts drop out too soon? Wealth, health and happiness from compulsory schooling," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(11-12), pages 2213-2229, December.
  4. Sen, Amartya, 1993. "Internal Consistency of Choice," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(3), pages 495-521, May.
  5. Charness, Gary B & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt0dc3k4m5, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  6. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "What can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," IEW - Working Papers 080, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  7. Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 10667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. W. Pesendorfer & F. Gul, 1999. "Temptation and Self-Control," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 99f1, Economics Department, Princeton University.
  9. Andrew Caplin & John Leahy, 2001. "Psychological Expected Utility Theory And Anticipatory Feelings," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(1), pages 55-79, February.
  10. Gruber Jonathan H & Mullainathan Sendhil, 2005. "Do Cigarette Taxes Make Smokers Happier," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-45, July.
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