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Do People Seek to Maximize Their Subjective Well‐Being?

Listed author(s):
  • Fleurbaey, Marc

    ()

    (Princeton University)

  • Schwandt, Hannes

    ()

    (University of Zurich)

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.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 9450.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2015
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp9450
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  1. 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.
  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. 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.
  4. 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).
  5. repec:pri:rpdevs:presidential%20address%2017january%202010%20all is not listed on IDEAS
  6. 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, 06.
  7. 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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