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http://ssrn.com/abstract=1696401
 
 

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Do People Seek to Maximize Happiness? Evidence from New Surveys


Daniel J. Benjamin


Cornell University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Ori Heffetz


Cornell University - S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Miles S. Kimball


University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Alex Rees-Jones


University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department

October 2010

NBER Working Paper No. w16489

Abstract:     
Are subjective well-being (SWB) measures a good empirical proxy for utility? We evaluate one necessary assumption: that people’s preferences coincide with what they predict will maximize their SWB. Our method is to present survey respondents with hypothetical scenarios and elicit both choice and predicted SWB rankings of two alternatives. While choice and predicted SWB rankings usually coincide, we find systematic reversals. Furthermore, we identify factors—such as predicted sense of purpose, control over one‘s life, family happiness, and social status—that help explain choice controlling for predicted SWB. We explore how our findings vary with the SWB measure and the choice situation.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 48

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Date posted: October 25, 2010  

Suggested Citation

Benjamin, Daniel J. and Heffetz, Ori and Kimball, Miles S. and Rees-Jones, Alex, Do People Seek to Maximize Happiness? Evidence from New Surveys (October 2010). NBER Working Paper No. w16489. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1696401

Contact Information

Daniel J. Benjamin (Contact Author)
Cornell University - Department of Economics ( email )
414 Uris Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-7601
United States
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Ori Heffetz
Cornell University - S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management ( email )
324 Sage Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607.255.4668 (Phone)
HOME PAGE: http://www.johnson.cornell.edu/faculty/profiles/heffetz/
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Miles S. Kimball
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )
611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
United States
734-764-2375 (Phone)
734-764-2769 (Fax)
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Alex Rees-Jones
University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department ( email )
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States
HOME PAGE: http://https://opimweb.wharton.upenn.edu/profile/26948/

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