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What good is happiness?

Author

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  • FLEURBAEY, Marc
  • SCHOKKAERT, Erik
  • DECANCQ, Koen

Abstract

In this paper we examine whether, and how, welfare economics should incorporate the insights from happiness and satisfaction studies. Our main point is that measuring well-being by reported satisfaction levels can come in conáict with individuals judgments about their own lives and that these individual judgments should be respected. We propose an alternative measure of welfare in terms of equivalent incomes that does respect individual preferences. Satisfaction surveys are useful, however, to derive information about preferences. We illustrate our approach with panel data from the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS) for the period 1995-2003 and we compare the results for equivalent incomes with the results for subjective satisfaction.

Suggested Citation

  • FLEURBAEY, Marc & SCHOKKAERT, Erik & DECANCQ, Koen, 2009. "What good is happiness?," CORE Discussion Papers 2009017, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cor:louvco:2009017
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
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    3. Marc Fleurbaey, 2007. "Social choice and the indexing dilemma," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, pages 633-648.
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    5. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 39(1 (Spring), pages 1-102.
    6. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2002. "Self-rated economic welfare in Russia," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(8), pages 1453-1473, September.
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    8. Fleurbaey, Marc & Schokkaert, Erik, 2009. "Unfair inequalities in health and health care," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, pages 73-90.
    9. Gerard Debreu, 1959. "Topological Methods in Cardinal Utility Theory," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 76, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
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    12. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
    13. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2009. "Should National Happiness be Maximized?," Chapters,in: Happiness, Economics and Politics, chapter 14 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    14. Paul Frijters & Ingo Geishecker & John P. Haisken-DeNew & Michael A. Shields, 2006. "Can the Large Swings in Russian Life Satisfaction be Explained by Ups and Downs in Real Incomes?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 108(3), pages 433-458, October.
    15. Erik Schokkaert, 2007. "Capabilities and Satisfaction with Life," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(3), pages 415-430.
    16. Samuelson, Paul A, 1974. "Complementarity-An Essay on the 40th Anniversary of the Hicks-Allen Revolution in Demand Theory," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 1255-1289, December.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Koen Decancq & Marc Fleurbaey & Francois Maniquet, 2014. "Multidimensional poverty measurement with individual preferences," Working Papers 058-2014, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Econometric Research Program..
    2. Koen Decancq & Dirk Neumann, 2014. "Does the Choice of Well-Being Measure Matter Empirically?: An Illustration with German Data," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 717, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    3. CALO-BLANCO, Aitor, 2012. "The compensation problem with fresh starts," CORE Discussion Papers 2012036, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    4. Daniel J. Benjamin & Ori Heffetz & Miles S. Kimball & Nichole Szembrot, 2014. "Beyond Happiness and Satisfaction: Toward Well-Being Indices Based on Stated Preference," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(9), pages 2698-2735, September.
    5. Van Landeghem, Bert, 2012. "A test for the convexity of human well-being over the life cycle: Longitudinal evidence from a 20-year panel," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 81(2), pages 571-582.
    6. Koen Decancq & Luc Van Ootegem & Elsy Verhofstadt, 2013. "What If We Voted on the Weights of a Multidimensional Well‐Being Index? An Illustration with Flemish Data," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, pages 315-332.
    7. Andres Felipe Hoyos Martin, 2015. "Measuring and Comparing Well-Being in South American Countries Using Equivalent Incomes," ICESI ECONOMICS WORKING PAPERS 014570, UNIVERSIDAD ICESI.
    8. Landeghem Bert van, 2011. "A Test for the Convexity of Human Well-Being over the Life Cycle: Longitudinal Evidence from a 20-Year Panel," ROA Research Memorandum 008, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
    9. Marc Fleurbaey & Erik Schokkaert, 2013. "Behavioral Welfare Economics and Redistribution," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, pages 180-205.
    10. Landeghem Bert van, 2011. "A Test for the Convexity of Human Well-Being over the Life Cycle: Longitudinal Evidence from a 20-Year Panel," Research Memorandum 043, Maastricht University, Maastricht Research School of Economics of Technology and Organization (METEOR).
    11. FLEURBAEY, Marc & SCHOKKAERT, Erik, 2011. "Behavioral fair social choice," CORE Discussion Papers 2011043, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    12. Koczan, Zs, 2013. "Does integration increase life satisfaction," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1314, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    13. Konow, James, 2009. "Adam Smith and Moral Knowledge," MPRA Paper 18557, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    happiness; satisfaction; preferences; welfare economics; psychology;

    JEL classification:

    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • D71 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Social Choice; Clubs; Committees; Associations

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