Free Content Some Uses of Happiness Data in Economics

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Abstract:

Happiness research is based on the idea that it is fruitful to study empirical measures of individual welfare. The most common is the answer to a simple well-being question such as "Are you Happy?" Hundreds of thousands of individuals have been asked this question, in many countries and over many years. Researchers have begun to use these data to tackle a variety of important questions in economics. Some require strong assumptions concerning interpersonal comparisons of utility, but others make only mild assumptions in this regard. They range from microeconomic questions, such as the way income and utility are connected, to macroeconomic questions such as the tradeoff between inflation and unemployment, including large areas in political economy. Public policy is another area where progress using happiness data is taking place. Given the central role of utility notions in economic theory, we argue that the use of happiness data in empirical research should be given serious consideration.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/089533006776526111

Publication date: December 1, 2006

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  • The Journal of Economic Perspectives (JEP) attempts to fill a gap between the general interest press and most other academic economics journals. The journal aims to publish articles that will serve several goals: to synthesize and integrate lessons learned from active lines of economic research; to provide economic analysis of public policy issues; to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas among the fields of thinking; to offer readers an accessible source for state-of-the-art economic thinking; to suggest directions for future research; to provide insights and readings for classroom use; and to address issues relating to the economics profession.
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