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Do People Seek to Maximize Their Subjective Well?Being?

Author

Listed:
  • Fleurbaey, Marc

    () (Princeton University)

  • Schwandt, Hannes

    () (University of Zurich)

Abstract

In a new survey we ask respondents, after a standard Subjective Well-Being (SWB) question, if they can think of changes in their lives that would improve their SWB score. If the SWB score is just one argument among others in the respondents' goals in life, they should easily find ways to improve it, at the expense of other dimensions they care about. Our results suggest that close to 90% of the respondents actually seek to maximize their SWB. The life satisfaction question appears the best contender as the "maximand" in the contest, before the ladder-of-life question and felt happiness. Among the other goals that people pursue and for which they are willing to sacrifice some of their SWB, the prominent appear to be about their relatives and about their future self.

Suggested Citation

  • Fleurbaey, Marc & Schwandt, Hannes, 2015. "Do People Seek to Maximize Their Subjective Well?Being?," IZA Discussion Papers 9450, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp9450
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Schwandt, Hannes, 2016. "Unmet aspirations as an explanation for the age U-shape in wellbeing," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 75-87.
    2. Layard, R. & Mayraz, G. & Nickell, S., 2008. "The marginal utility of income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1846-1857, August.
    3. Angus Deaton, 2010. "Price Indexes, Inequality, and the Measurement of World Poverty," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(1), pages 5-34, March.
    4. 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.
    5. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur Stone, 2004. "Toward National Well-Being Accounts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 429-434, May.
    6. 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).
    7. repec:pri:rpdevs:presidential%20address%2017january%202010%20all is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Martha C. Nussbaum, 2008. "Who Is the Happy Warrior? Philosophy Poses Questions to Psychology," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(S2), pages 81-113, June.
    9. Luis Rayo & Gary S. Becker, 2007. "Evolutionary Efficiency and Happiness," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 302-337.
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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. The Utopia paradox
      by chris in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2015-12-10 19:37:00

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    Cited by:

    1. Akay, Alpaslan & Bargain, Olivier B. & Jara, H. Xavier, 2017. "Back to Bentham, Should We? Large-Scale Comparison of Experienced versus Decision Utility," GLO Discussion Paper Series 52, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    2. Schwandt, Hannes, 2016. "Unmet aspirations as an explanation for the age U-shape in wellbeing," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 75-87.
    3. Bert Van Landeghem & Anneleen Vandeplas, 2016. "Lower in Rank, but Happier: The Complex Relationship between Status and Happiness," Working Papers id:11441, eSocialSciences.
    4. Akay, Alpaslan & Bargain, Olivier & Jara, Xavier, 2017. "'Fair' Welfare Comparisons with Heterogeneous Tastes: Subjective versus Revealed Preferences," IZA Discussion Papers 10908, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. van Landeghem, Bert & Vandeplas, Anneleen, 2017. "The Relationship between Status and Happiness: Evidence from the Caste System in Rural India," IZA Discussion Papers 11099, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Kevin Denny, 2017. "Are the Effects of Height on Well-Being a Tall Tale?," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 18(5), pages 1445-1458, October.
    7. Akay, Alpaslan & Bargain, Olivier & Jara, Xavier, 2017. "Back to Bentham, Should We? Large-Scale Comparison of Experienced versus Decision Utility," IZA Discussion Papers 10907, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    subjective well‐being; life satisfaction; happiness; life goals; utility;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General

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