IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/diw/diwwpp/dp639.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Life Goals Matter to Happiness: A Revision of Set-Point Theory

Author

Listed:
  • Bruce Headey

Abstract

Using data from the long-running German Socio-Economic Panel Survey (SOEP), this paper provides evidence that life goals matter substantially to subjective well-being (SWB). Nonzero sum goals, which include commitment to family, friends and social and political involvement, promote life satisfaction. Zero sum goals, including commitment to career success and material gains, appear detrimental to life satisfaction. Finding that conscious life goals matter can potentially make an important contribution to SWB theory. The most widely accepted theory - set-point or dynamic equilibrium theory - essentially claims that set-points are near-automatic consequences of hereditary characteristics, including personality traits. Life goals play no role in these theories and major life events are viewed as having only a transitory effect. The SOEP panel data show that, over a 15-20 year period, non-trivial minorities record substantial changes in their set-points. This paper shows linkages between these changes and (a) the personality traits of extraversion, neuroticism and internal locus of control and (b) choice of life goals.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruce Headey, 2006. "Life Goals Matter to Happiness: A Revision of Set-Point Theory," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 639, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp639
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.44816.de/dp639.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2005. "Individual Risk Attitudes: New Evidence from a Large, Representative, Experimentally-Validated Survey," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 511, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Yew‐Kwang Ng*, 1978. "Economic Growth And Social Welfare: The Need For A Complete Study Of Happiness," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(4), pages 575-587, November.
    3. Frey, Bruno S & Stutzer, Alois, 2000. "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(466), pages 918-938, October.
    4. Frank, Robert H, 1985. "The Demand for Unobservable and Other Nonpositional Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 101-116, March.
    5. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1978. "Economic Growth and Social Welfare: The Need for a Complete Study of Happiness," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(4), pages 575-587.
    6. Hollander, Heinz, 2001. "On the validity of utility statements: standard theory versus Duesenberry's," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 227-249, July.
    7. Goebel Jan & Grabka Markus M. & Liebig Stefan & Kroh Martin & Richter David & Schröder Carsten & Schupp Jürgen, 2019. "The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP)," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 239(2), pages 345-360, April.
    8. Easterlin, Richard A., 1974. "Does Economic Growth Improve the Human Lot? Some Empirical Evidence," MPRA Paper 111773, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Does a positive-sum attitude promote happiness?
      by Winton Bates in Freedom and Flourishing on 2008-08-12 15:31:00

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Bruce Headey, 2007. "The Set-Point Theory of Well-Being Needs Replacing: On the Brink of a Scientific Revolution?," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 55, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    2. Laura Schräpler & Jörg-Peter Schräpler & Gert G. Wagner, 2019. "Wie (in)stabil ist die Lebenszufriedenheit? Eine Sequenzanalyse mit Daten des Sozio-oekonomischen Panels (SOEP)," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 1045, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    3. Johannes Klement, 2021. "Identifying Stabilising Effects on Survey Based Life Satisfaction Using Quasi-maximum Likelihood Estimation," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 22(8), pages 3611-3629, December.
    4. N. Rickard & D. Vella-Brodrick, 2014. "Changes in Well-Being: Complementing a Psychosocial Approach with Neurobiological Insights," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 117(2), pages 437-457, June.

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Bruce Headey, 2008. "Life Goals Matter to Happiness: A Revision of Set-Point Theory," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 86(2), pages 213-231, April.
    2. Easterlin, Richard A., 2003. "Building a Better Theory of Well-Being," IZA Discussion Papers 742, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Stutzer, Alois, 2004. "The role of income aspirations in individual happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 89-109, May.
    4. Bruce Headey & Mark Wooden, 2004. "The Effects of Wealth and Income on Subjective Well‐Being and Ill‐Being," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 80(s1), pages 24-33, September.
    5. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell, 2013. "Happiness economics," SERIEs: Journal of the Spanish Economic Association, Springer;Spanish Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 35-60, March.
    6. Bruce Headey, 2008. "The Set-Point Theory of Well-Being: Negative Results and Consequent Revisions," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 85(3), pages 389-403, February.
    7. Bruce Headey, 2007. "The Set-Point Theory of Well-Being Needs Replacing: On the Brink of a Scientific Revolution?," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 55, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    8. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels & Mark Wooden, 2008. "Money Does not Buy Happiness: Or Does It? A Reassessment Based on the Combined Effects of Wealth, Income and Consumption," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 87(1), pages 65-82, May.
    9. Stefanie Schurer & Jongsay Yong, 2016. "Happiness, Income And Heterogeneity," The Singapore Economic Review (SER), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 61(03), pages 1-23, June.
    10. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2005. "How much do we care about absolute versus relative income and consumption?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 405-421, March.
    11. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
    12. Konow, James & Earley, Joseph, 2008. "The Hedonistic Paradox: Is homo economicus happier," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(1-2), pages 1-33, February.
    13. Luigino Bruni & Luca Stanca, 2006. "Income Aspirations, Television and Happiness: Evidence from the World Values Survey," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(2), pages 209-225, May.
    14. Yamamura, Eiji, 2013. "Trial experience, satisfaction and incentive to bring another lawsuit: Does aspiration level influence winners and losers?," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, vol. 28(C), pages 125-131.
    15. Justina A.V. Fischer & Benno Torgler, 2013. "Do Positional Concerns Destroy Social Capital: Evidence From 26 Countries," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 51(2), pages 1542-1565, April.
    16. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2004. "Money, Sex and Happiness: An Empirical Study," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 393-415, October.
    17. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2002. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 402-435, June.
    18. Wen-Chun Chang, 2013. "Climbing up the Social Ladders: Identity, Relative Income, and Subjective Well-being," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 113(1), pages 513-535, August.
    19. Alessa K. Durst, 2021. "Education as a Positional Good? Evidence from the German Socio-Economic Panel," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 155(2), pages 745-767, June.
    20. Pascal Courty & Merwan Engineer, 2019. "A pure hedonic theory of utility and status: Unhappy but efficient invidious comparisons," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 21(4), pages 601-621, August.

    More about this item

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp639. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/diwbede.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Bibliothek (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/diwbede.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.