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Knowing what is good for you: Empirical analysis of personal preferences and the "objective good"

  • Lelkes, Orsolya

The paper argues that there is a cherishable overlap between “objective good” and people’s preferences in measures of well-being. Firstly, using recent survey data from twenty European countries I analyse the determinants of individual’s “experienced utility”. The proxy for utility is overall life satisfaction. The results indicate that various measures of well-being which are normally used for assessing people’s quality of life do indeed significantly influence people’s utility. The estimated micro-econometric life satisfaction equations suggest that an individual’s labour market situation, housing conditions and social relations significantly contribute to his overall life satisfaction, over and above the level of his income. The findings also imply that the use of non-income measures in standard analyses of well-being is justified on the grounds that these measures do have intrinsic value for the people over and above their incomes. In the second part of the paper, the stability of the relationship is tested using survey data from Hungary from the 1990s. The results show that there was only very limited change in this relationship despite the landslide of societal and economic transformation. Entrepreneurs have become more satisfied, but there is no change in the relationship of income and life satisfaction, ceteris paribus. Overall, thus the relationship between basic measures of objective well-being and people’s preferences seems to be stable.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics).

Volume (Year): 35 (2006)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 285-307

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Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:35:y:2006:i:2:p:285-307
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