IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Knowing what is good for you: empirical analysis of personal preferences and the 'objective good'

  • Orsolya Lelkes
Registered author(s):

    This paper aims to test empirically if certain frequently used measures of well-being, which are regarded as valuable properties of human life, are actually desired by people. In other words, it investigates whether the “expert judgments” in social science overlap with social consensus on what the “good life” is. The starting hypothesis is that there is an overlap between these two in the case of basic needs. For the analysis, individuals’ self-reported life satisfaction is used as a proxy for “utility”, based on survey data, which includes about 30 000 individuals from 21 different European countries. The results indicate that the commonly used measures of well-being – labour market situation, health, housing conditions and social relations – significantly influence people’s satisfaction, ceteris paribus. Next, the stability of preferences is tested using Hungarian data from the 1990s. The results indicate that there was only very limited change in the relationship between life satisfaction and basic measures of well-being despite the landslide of societal and economic transformation.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    File URL:
    File Function: Open access version.
    Download Restriction: no

    Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 6270.

    in new window

    Length: 40 pages
    Date of creation: Mar 2005
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:6270
    Contact details of provider: Postal: LSE Library Portugal Street London, WC2A 2HD, U.K.
    Phone: +44 (020) 7405 7686
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as in new window
    1. Rabin, Matthew, 1997. "Psychology and Economics," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt8jd5z5j2, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    2. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
    3. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2000. "Who wants to redistribute?: The tunnel effect in 1990s Russia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 87-104, April.
    4. Andrew E. Clark & Ed Diener & Yannis Georgellis & Richard E. Lucas, 2007. "Lags and Leads in Life Satisfaction: A Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," CEP Discussion Papers dp0836, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    5. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Preferences over inflation and unemployment: Evidence from surveys of happiness," ZEI Working Papers B 03-2001, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn.
    6. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
    7. Andrew E. Clark, 2003. "Unemployment as a Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 289-322, April.
    8. Hayo, Bernd & Seifert, Wolfgang, 2003. "Subjective economic well-being in Eastern Europe," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 329-348, June.
    9. C. Graham & S. Pettinato, 2002. "Frustrated Achievers: Winners, Losers and Subjective Well-Being in New Market Economies," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(4), pages 100-140.
    10. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "What can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," IEW - Working Papers 080, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    11. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    12. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2005. "Income and well-being: an empirical analysis of the comparison income effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 997-1019, June.
    13. Ceema Namazie & Peter Sanfey, 1998. "Happiness in transition: the case of Kyrgyzstan," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 6591, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    14. Kahneman, Daniel & Wakker, Peter P & Sarin, Rakesh, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-405, May.
    15. David G. Blanchflower & Richard B. Freeman, 1997. "The Attitudinal Legacy of Communist Labor Relations," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 50(3), pages 438-459, April.
    16. Kornai, Janos, 1992. "The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198287766.
    17. 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.
    18. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
    19. Nussbaum, Martha C., 2001. "Symposium on Amartya Sen's philosophy: 5 Adaptive preferences and women's options," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 17(01), pages 67-88, April.
    20. Kornai Janos, 1994. "Transformational Recession: The Main Causes," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 39-63, August.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:6270. 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: (LSERO Manager)

    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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link 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 profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

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

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.