Diane Coyle, 09 June 2014

As a measure of economic activity, GDP is imperfect, but no more so than any single indicator of the whole economy. Yet public policy debate about the economy is often focused on GDP growth to the exclusion of other important considerations. This Vox Talk argues the case for a ‘dashboard’ of alternative indicators that, in addition to measuring economic activity, could also capture social welfare, sustainability and the benefits of innovation.

Angus Deaton, Arthur Stone, 04 March 2014

Study after study has shown that those who live with children are less satisfied with their lives than those who do not. Is there something wrong with these empirical analyses? Or is it that happiness measures are unreliable? This column argues that the results are correct but that comparisons of the wellbeing of parents and non-parents are of no help at all for people trying to decide whether to have children.

Diane Coyle, 17 February 2014

Criticism of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as an indicator of the health of the economy has grown in recent years, in part because of a new focus on measures of subjective well-being or ‘happiness’. This column argues that the debate needs to distinguish between the different purposes of measurement: economic activity, social welfare, and sustainability are distinct concepts and cannot be captured by a single indicator. There are good arguments for paying less attention to GDP and more to indicators of welfare and sustainability, but it would be a mistake to adjust or replace GDP.

Eugenio Proto, Aldo Rustichini, 11 January 2014

The link between higher national income and higher national life satisfaction is critical to economic policymaking. This column presents new evidence that the connection is hump-shaped. There is a clear, positive relation in the poorer nations and regions, but it flattens out at around $30,000–$35,000, and then turns negative.

Federica Liberini, Eugenio Proto, Michela Redoano, 15 November 2013

Retrospective voting – voting for incumbents if one’s situation has improved under the politician’s watch – is a well-established pattern. This column shows that this pattern also applies when ‘improvement’ is measured by a subjective measure of well-being. Among the stark results discussed is the finding that newly widowed women are 10% less likely to be pro-incumbent than the control group.

Andrew Oswald, 05 December 2012

Humans tend to go through midlife crises regardless of context. So too, it appears, do apes. This column draws on recent research showing apes’ midlives to be, like humans’, dogged by the same pattern of unhappiness.

John Feddersen, Robert Metcalfe, Mark Wooden, 02 November 2012

Hurricane Sandy destroyed an massive amount of US wealth, but the impact on human wellbeing surely goes far beyond any dollar figure. This column argues that the ‘subjective wellbeing’ literature can inform policy choices in the area of emergency response. Since the ‘happiness’ cost of short-term weather changes far exceeds that of long-term changes, prevention policies are likely to yield a higher payoff in terms of life satisfaction than rebuilding policies with equivalent financial payoffs.

Kees Koedijk, Meir Statman, Rachel Campbell, 30 March 2012

Does more money always make you happy? This column argues that financial wellbeing is distinct from income. People with low income can enjoy financial wellbeing as high as people with high incomes as long as their aspirations do not exceed their incomes.

Bruno S. Frey, Jana Gallus, 21 March 2012

The world appears to be unfair. Those who are prettier earn a higher salary and are also happier. This column argues it is still not hopeless for those less blessed with looks. Appropriate clothing, hairstyles, and good teeth can help, as can choosing a profession where expertise is clearly central and beauty of less importance.

Carol Graham, 31 July 2011

The UK government is the latest to consider incorporating measures of happiness in its policymaking. This column takes stock of what we know from investigations into people’s wellbeing. It concludes that there is still much to resolve before a measure of gross national happiness is possible – or indeed desirable.

Jörn-Steffen Pischke, 03 June 2011

Economists have been venturing into the realm of human emotions for some years now. This column provides a unique approach to investigating the link between income and happiness. It finds that while money really can buy happiness, there are many other factors that can get in the way.

Christoph Schmidt, Sonja C Kassenboehmer, 31 January 2011

In Sarkozy's controversial 2009 Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, Stiglitz and Sen argued that standard indicators of material well-being no longer suffice as measures of welfare. They conclude that other measures such as health, security, happiness, and environmental impact should figure more importantly in economics. The authors of CEPR DP8225 reply that these measures add little value to the economist's toolbox.

Andreas Knabe, Ronnie Schöb, Joachim Weimann, 17 November 2010

“We were happy in those days… Because we were poor”, goes the old Monty Python sketch. This column suggests there might be some shred of truth in this joke. It finds that while unemployed people report being less satisfied with their life in general, their emotional wellbeing experienced during day-to-day activities does not seem to suffer at all.

Justin Wolfers , Betsey Stevenson, Daniel Sacks, 11 October 2010

Does money buy happiness? Discussion Paper 8048 examines the relationship between subjective well-being and income along three dimensions: between individuals in the same country, between other countries, and during a country's growth. In each case higher income correlates with higher reported levels of subjective well-being. Higher income, the authors conclude, does in fact make people happier with their lives.

John Helliwell, Christopher Barrington-Leigh, Anthony Harris, Haifang Huang, 24 April 2010

What accounts for life satisfaction differences across countries? This column presents new findings from the Gallup World Poll of more than 140,000 respondents worldwide. It suggests the happiest nations are those with strong social support from family and friends, freedom in making life choices, and low levels of corruption.

Andrew Clark, 02 April 2010

Andrew Clark of the Paris School of Economics talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his research on the relationship between income and health, which examines changes in the health and health behaviours (smoking and drinking) of British people who win prizes in the national lottery. The interview was recorded at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference at the University of Surrey in March 2010.

Carol Graham, 30 January 2010

What measures of human wellbeing are the most accurate benchmarks of economic progress and human development? This column presents new research suggesting that while people can adapt to be happy at low levels of income, they are far less happy when there is uncertainty over their future wealth. This may help explain why different societies tolerate such different levels of health, crime, and governance, and why US happiness plummeted during the global financial crisis but has since been restored despite incomes remaining lower.

Arik Levinson, 09 September 2009

If governments supply public goods that market forces will not, they ought to assign monetary values to those goods so that they can prioritise projects. This column discusses the difficulties of estimating those values using happiness surveys. Using a new method, it estimates that people value a one-standard-deviation improvement in air quality at $40.

Justin Wolfers, 24 July 2009

Justin Wolfers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about happiness economics – the state of knowledge; the explosion of data; the debate about the Easterlin paradox; the impact of inequality and the business cycle on people’s happiness; and the implications for public policy. The interview was recorded at the Centre for Economic Performance in London in June 2009.

Richard Easterlin, 10 April 2009

Richard Easterlin of the University of Southern California talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about the Easterlin paradox – his finding, first published in 1974, that although people with higher incomes are more likely to report being happy, rising incomes do not lead to increases in subjective wellbeing. The interview was recorded at the American Economic Association meetings in San Francisco in January 2009.

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