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Beyond Happiness and Satisfaction: Toward Well-Being Indices Based on Stated Preference

Author

Listed:
  • Daniel J. Benjamin
  • Ori Heffetz
  • Miles S. Kimball
  • Nichole Szembrot

Abstract

This paper proposes foundations and a methodology for survey-based tracking of well-being. First, we develop a theory in which utility depends on "fundamental aspects" of well-being, measurable with surveys. Second, drawing from psychologists, philosophers, and economists, we compile a comprehensive list of such aspects. Third, we demonstrate our proposed method for estimating the aspects' relative marginal utilities--a necessary input for constructing an individual-level well-being index--by asking ~4,600 U.S. survey respondents to state their preference between pairs of aspect bundles. We estimate high relative marginal utilities not only for happiness and life satisfaction, but also for aspects related to family, health, security, values, and freedoms.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel J. Benjamin & Ori Heffetz & Miles S. Kimball & Nichole Szembrot, 2012. "Beyond Happiness and Satisfaction: Toward Well-Being Indices Based on Stated Preference," NBER Working Papers 18374, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18374
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fleurbaey,Marc & Maniquet,François, 2011. "A Theory of Fairness and Social Welfare," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521715348, April.
    2. Camerer, Colin F & Hogarth, Robin M, 1999. "The Effects of Financial Incentives in Experiments: A Review and Capital-Labor-Production Framework," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 19(1-3), pages 7-42, December.
    3. Ed Diener, 2006. "Guidelines for National Indicators of Subjective Well-Being and Ill-Being," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 7(4), pages 397-404, November.
    4. Loewenstein, George & Ubel, Peter A., 2008. "Hedonic adaptation and the role of decision and experience utility in public policy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1795-1810, August.
    5. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2008. "Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
    6. Koen Decancq & Luc Van Ootegem & Elsy Verhofstadt, 2013. "What If We Voted on the Weights of a Multidimensional Well‐Being Index? An Illustration with Flemish Data," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 34, pages 315-332, September.
    7. Fleurbaey, Marc & Blanchet, Didier, 2013. "Beyond GDP: Measuring Welfare and Assessing Sustainability," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199767199.
    8. Koen Decancq & María Ana Lugo, 2013. "Weights in Multidimensional Indices of Wellbeing: An Overview," Econometric Reviews, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(1), pages 7-34, January.
    9. Daniel J. Benjamin & Ori Heffetz & Miles S. Kimball & Alex Rees-Jones, 2014. "Can Marginal Rates of Substitution Be Inferred from Happiness Data? Evidence from Residency Choices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(11), pages 3498-3528, November.
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    11. 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.
    12. FLEURBAEY, Marc & SCHOKKAERT, Erik & DECANCQ, Koen, 2009. "What good is happiness?," CORE Discussion Papers 2009017, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    13. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
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    15. Kelvin J. Lancaster, 1966. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74, pages 132-132.
    16. Sen, Amartya, 1979. "The Welfare Basis of Real Income Comparisons: A Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 1-45, March.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • D69 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Other
    • E01 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - General - - - Measurement and Data on National Income and Product Accounts and Wealth; Environmental Accounts
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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