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

Human Well-being and In-Work Benefits: A Randomized Controlled Trial

  • Dorsett, Richard


    (National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR))

  • Oswald, Andrew J.


    (University of Warwick)

Many politicians believe they can intervene in the economy to improve people's lives. But can they? In a social experiment carried out in the United Kingdom, extensive in-work support was randomly assigned among 16,000 disadvantaged people. We follow a sub-sample of 3,500 single parents for 5 ensuing years. The results reveal a remarkable, and troubling, finding. Long after eligibility had ceased, the treated individuals had substantially lower psychological well-being, worried more about money, and were increasingly prone to debt. Thus helping people apparently hurt them. We discuss a behavioral framework consistent with our findings and reflect on implications for policy.

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:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7943.

in new window

Length: 55 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2014
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7943
Contact details of provider: Postal: IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page:

Order Information: Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany

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. David Reiley & John List, 2008. "Field experiments," Artefactual Field Experiments 00091, The Field Experiments Website.
  2. Matthew Adler & Eric A. Posner, 2008. "Happiness Research and Cost-Benefit Analysis," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(S2), pages S253-S292, 06.
  3. Bargain, Olivier & Orsini, Kristian, 2004. "In-Work Policies in Europe: Killing Two Birds with One Stone?," IZA Discussion Papers 1445, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
  5. John A. List, 2006. "The Behavioralist Meets the Market: Measuring Social Preferences and Reputation Effects in Actual Transactions," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(1), pages 1-37, February.
  6. 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.
  7. Richard Layard, 2006. "Happiness and public policy: a challenge to the profession," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 47483, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  8. Richard Layard, 2006. "Happiness and Public Policy: a Challenge to the Profession," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages C24-C33, 03.
  9. repec:mpr:mprres:1960 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Card, David & Hyslop, Dean R., 2009. "The dynamic effects of an earnings subsidy for long-term welfare recipients: Evidence from the self sufficiency project applicant experiment," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 153(1), pages 1-20, November.
  11. H. M. Shefrin & Richard Thaler, 1977. "An Economic Theory of Self-Control," NBER Working Papers 0208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2013. "Subjective Well-Being and Income: Is there any Evidence of Satiation?," CESifo Working Paper Series 4222, CESifo Group Munich.
  13. Oswald, Andrew J. & Proto, Eugenio & Sgroi, Daniel, 2009. "Happiness and Productivity," IZA Discussion Papers 4645, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. Ifcher John, 2011. "The Happiness of Single Mothers after Welfare Reform," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 1-29, September.
  15. Daniel J. Benjamin & Ori Heffetz & Miles S. Kimball & Alex Rees-Jones, 2012. "What Do You Think Would Make You Happier? What Do You Think You Would Choose?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 102(5), pages 2083-2110, August.
  16. Graham, Carol & Nikolova, Milena, 2013. "Does access to information technology make people happier? Insights from well-being surveys from around the world," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 126-139.
  17. Paul Gregg & Susan Harkness & Sarah Smith, 2007. "Welfare Reform and Lone Parents in the UK," The Centre for Market and Public Organisation 07/182, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  18. Oswald, Andrew J. & Wu, Stephen, 2010. "Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-being: Evidence from the USA," IZA Discussion Papers 4695, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. Mike Brewer & Marco Francesconi & Paul Gregg & Jeffrey Grogger, 2009. "Feature: In-work Benefit Reform in a Cross-National Perspective - Introduction," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(535), pages F1-F14, 02.
  20. Gintis, Herbert, 2000. "Beyond Homo economicus: evidence from experimental economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 311-322, December.
  21. Gary Burtless, 1995. "The Case for Randomized Field Trials in Economic and Policy Research," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 63-84, Spring.
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:iza:izadps:dp7943. 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: (Mark Fallak)

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.