Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

the economics of happiness

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Economists continue to study happiness, and new research appears frequently. FT undercover economist Tim Harford faces this question head-on, asking whether the pursuit of wellbeing should guide government policy and, if so, how should we measure wellbeing. Typically, happiness surveys ask respondents how satisfied they are with life, on a scale of one to ten. Is moving from 3 to 4 the same as moving from 7 to 8 on the scale? And, what does a score of one, five or ten really mean? (more…)

happiness over the life cycle

Friday, December 1st, 2017

Students of ‘happiness’ invariably find the variable to be U-shaped over a person’s lifetime. People tend to become less and less happy until they reach middle age, usually around age 46. Then they regain happiness as they age. The British economist John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) is exceptional in that he suffered a midlife crisis at the tender age of 20. (more…)

happiness in the USA

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

Economist Carol Graham has written a book on the pursuit of happiness in the USA. Here is an excerpt from a review of the book, written by journalist Geoff Dayer for the Financial Times. (more…)

unemployment, dignity and work

Thursday, December 22nd, 2016

Happiness researchers consistently find that unemployment

Adam Smith on income and happiness

Thursday, July 21st, 2016

Adam Smith (1723-1790) wrote that, beyond some basic amount, money does not buy happiness. “The beggar, who suns himself by the side of the highway,” he wrote, “possesses that security which kings are fighting for.” So much, then,

the mathematics of happiness

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Can happiness be reduced to a single mathematical equation? Dr Robb Rutledge, a researcher at the Max Planck University College London Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, thinks so. Here is the equation that he and his colleagues estimated with results obtained from experiments on human subjects:

In words, Dr Cobb and colleagues found that happiness depends on three variables: certainty of rewards (CR), expected value of rewards (EV), and, last but not least, a “a reward prediction error (RPE), the difference between the experienced outcome and the expectation”. The three coefficients of interest (w1, w2, w3) are positive and statistically significant.

RPE has a positive effect on happiness, so it might seem reasonable to conclude that low expectations are the key to happiness. Dr Robb warns us, however, that this is not generally true, because low expectations (i.e. low EVs) themselves have a direct impact on happiness. In any event, “being happy all of the time is probably not a good idea”. This last conclusion is one that I did not expect to hear from a happiness researcher!

As a researcher studying happiness, people often ask me how they can be happier. Our equation might make it seem like low expectations are the secret to happiness, but that

material comfort and happiness

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Three FT columnists – Undercover Economist Tim Harford, psychotherapist Antonia Macaro, and

happiness, satisfaction, and GDP

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

I would like to call everyone’s attention to a superb article written by University of Southern California economist Richard Easterlin, a scholar who, years ago, touched off the booming field of “happiness studies”. I, for one, am not convinced that happiness – even life satisfaction or subjective well being – is something we can usefully measure, aggregate and use for policy purposes. Nonetheless, Easterlin makes a spirited, impassioned case for replacing GDP (Gross Domestic Product) with SWB (Subjective Well Being). He has succeeded in convincing me that SWB, with all its faults, is at least preferable to HDI (the UNDP’s Human Development Index) as a measure of welfare.

Here are two paragraphs from the introduction, and two from the conclusion of the essay. The entire essay (4 pages) can be downloaded, copied and printed without charge, so click on the link below. You will not be disappointed. (more…)

income inequality and economic growth

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Standard & Poor

growth and happiness

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Will recovery from the Great Recession bring increased happiness? Not necessarily, writes FT columnist Simon Kuper.

If you