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Measuring Subjective Wellbeing for Public Policy: Recommendations on Measures


  • Paul Dolan
  • Richard Layard
  • Robert Metcalfe


The measurement of wellbeing is central to public policy. There are three uses for any measure: 1) monitoring progress; 2) informing policy design; and 3) policy appraisal. There has been increasing interest in the UK and around the world in using measures of subjective wellbeing (SWB) at each of these levels. There is much less clarity about precisely what measures of SWB should be used. We distinguish between three broad types of SWB measure: 1) evaluation (global assessments); 2) experience (feelings over short periods of time); and 3) 'eudemonic' (reports of purpose and meaning, and worthwhile things in life).

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  • Paul Dolan & Richard Layard & Robert Metcalfe, 2011. "Measuring Subjective Wellbeing for Public Policy: Recommendations on Measures," CEP Special Papers 23, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepsps:23

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Dolan, Paul & Metcalfe, Robert, 2012. "The relationship between innovation and subjective wellbeing," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(8), pages 1489-1498.
    2. Frijters, Paul & Johnston, David W. & Shields, Michael A., 2011. "Destined for (Un)Happiness: Does Childhood Predict Adult Life Satisfaction?," IZA Discussion Papers 5819, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Gabriella Conti & James J. Heckman, 2012. "The Economics of Child Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 18466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Ferreira, Susana & Akay, Alpaslan & Brereton, Finbarr & Cuñado, Juncal & Martinsson, Peter & Moro, Mirko & Ningal, Tine F., 2013. "Life satisfaction and air quality in Europe," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 1-10.
    5. Kroll, Christian & Pokutta, Sebastian, 2013. "Just a perfect day? Developing a happiness optimised day schedule," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 210-217.
    6. John Feddersen & Robert Metcalfe & Mark Wooden, 2012. "Subjective Well-Being: Weather Matters; Climate Doesn't," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2012n25, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    7. Martin Binder, 2014. "Subjective Well-Being Capabilities: Bridging the Gap Between the Capability Approach and Subjective Well-Being Research," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 15(5), pages 1197-1217, October.
    8. Alex Bryson & George MacKerron, 2017. "Are You Happy While You Work?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(599), pages 106-125, February.
    9. repec:bla:jorssa:v:180:y:2017:i:1:p:3-43 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Arie Kapteyn & Jinkook Lee & Caroline Tassot & Hana Vonkova & Gema Zamarro, 2015. "Dimensions of Subjective Well-Being," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 123(3), pages 625-660, September.
    11. Yaman, F. & Cubí‐Mollá, P., "undated". "A fixed effects ordered choice model with flexible thresholds with an application to life-satisfaction," Working Papers 8123, Department of Economics, City University London.
    12. Paul Dolan & Georgios Kavetsos, 2016. "Happy Talk: Mode of Administration Effects on Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 1273-1291, June.
    13. Christian Kroll, 2011. "Wie wollen wir zukünftig leben? Internationale Erfahrungen bei der Neuvermessung von Fortschritt und Wohlergehen," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 186, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
    14. Ludwig, Jens & Duncan, Greg J. & Katz, Lawrence F. & Kessler, Ronald & Kling, Jeffrey R. & Gennetian, Lisa A. & Sanbonmatsu, Lisa, 2012. "Neighborhood Effects on the Long-Term Well-Being of Low-Income Adults," Scholarly Articles 11870359, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    15. Martin Binder, 2013. "Innovativeness and Subjective Well-Being," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 111(2), pages 561-578, April.
    16. Paul Dolan & Matteo M. Galizzi, 2014. "Because I'm Worth It: A Lab-Field Experiment on the Spillover Effects of Incentives in Health," CEP Discussion Papers dp1286, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    17. Nicola Pontarollo & Mercy Orellana Bravo & Joselin Segovia Sarmiento, 2017. "The determinants of subjective wellbeing in a developing country: The Ecuadorian case," JRC Working Papers JRC109319, Joint Research Centre (Seville site).
    18. Jiayuan Li & John Raine, 2014. "The Time Trend of Life Satisfaction in China," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 116(2), pages 409-427, April.

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