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Testing Theories of Happiness

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  • Bruno S. Frey
  • Alois Stutzer

Abstract

Happiness research in economics takes reported subjective well-being as a proxy measure for utility and has already provided many interesting insights about human well-being and its determinants. We argue that future research on happiness in economics has a lot of potential, but that it needs to be guided more by theory. We propose two ways to test theories of happiness, and illustrate them with two applications. First, reported subjective well-being can contribute towards a new understanding of utility in economics. Here, we study the introduction of income aspirations in individuals� utility functions in order to improve our understanding of how income affects individual well-being. Second, happiness data offers a new possibility of discriminating between different models of behavior. This is studied for theories of marriage, which crucially depend on auxiliary assumptions as to what contributes to well-being in marriage. Both applications are empirically tested with panel data for Germany.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, "undated". "Testing Theories of Happiness," IEW - Working Papers 147, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:iewwpx:147
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    File URL: http://www.econ.uzh.ch/static/wp_iew/iewwp147.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Luigino Bruni & Luca Stanca, 2006. "Income Aspirations, Television and Happiness: Evidence from the World Values Survey," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 59(2), pages 209-225, May.
    2. Alejandro Cid & Daniel Ferrés & Máximo Rossi, 2008. "Testing Happiness Hypothesis among the Elderly," REVISTA CUADERNOS DE ECONOMÍA, UN - RCE - CID, July.
    3. Cid, Alejandro & Ferrés, Daniel & Rossi, Máximo, 2008. "Subjective Well-Being in the Southen Cone: Health, Income and Family," MPRA Paper 39909, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Benesch Christine & Frey Bruno S. & Stutzer Alois, 2010. "TV Channels, Self-Control and Happiness," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(1), pages 1-35, September.
    5. Bruno S. Frey & Simon Luechinger & Alois Stutzer, "undated". "Valuing Public Goods: The Life Satisfaction Approach," IEW - Working Papers 184, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    6. Berentsen Aleksander & Rocheteau Guillaume, 2003. "On the Friedman Rule in Search Models with Divisible Money," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 3(1), pages 1-21, December.
    7. Bruno S. Frey & Simon Luechinger, 2005. "Measuring terrorism," Chapters,in: Law and the State, chapter 6 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    8. Bruno Frey & Simon Luechinger & Alois Stutzer, 2009. "The life satisfaction approach to valuing public goods: The case of terrorism," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 138(3), pages 317-345, March.
    9. Aleksander Berentsen & Esther Br�gger & Simon L�rtscher, "undated". "On Cheating and Whistle-Blowing," IEW - Working Papers 153, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
    10. Kavetsos, Georgios & Szymanski, Stefan, 2010. "National well-being and international sports events," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(2), pages 158-171, April.
    11. Noelia Somarriba Arechavala & Bernardo Pena Trapero, 2008. "Quality Of Life And Subjective Welfare In Europe: An Econometric Analysis," Applied Econometrics and International Development, Euro-American Association of Economic Development, vol. 8(2), pages 55-66.
    12. Stefan Mann, 2006. "Merit goods in a utilitarian framework," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(4), pages 509-520.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    aspiration level; marriage; relative income; subjective well-being; utility;

    JEL classification:

    • D13 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Production and Intrahouse Allocation
    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J12 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Marriage; Marital Dissolution; Family Structure

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