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Subjective Well-being and Social Evaluation in a Poor Country

  • John Knight
  • Ramani Gunatilak

The empirical literature on the economics of happiness has grown rapidly, and much has been learned about the determinants of subjective well-being. Less attention has been paid to its normative implications. Taking China as a case study, this paper first summarises empirical results on the determinants of subjective well-being and then considers whether that evidence can be used for social evaluation. Different criteria for social evaluation give very different answers: on the one hand, real income per capita and the human development index have risen rapidly in recent years but, on the other hand, subjective well-being appears not to have risen at all. Ultimately a value judgement is required: arguments are presented for and against including subjective well-being, either alone or with other criteria, in the social welfare function.

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Paper provided by Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford in its series CSAE Working Paper Series with number 2014-09.

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Date of creation: 2014
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Handle: RePEc:csa:wpaper:2014-09
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