What Do You Think Would Make You Happier? What Do You Think You Would Choose?
Daniel J. Benjamin
Cornell University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Cornell University - S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management
Miles S. Kimball
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Cornell University - Department of Economics
July 27, 2011
American Economic Review, Forthcoming
Johnson School Research Paper Series No. 32-2011
Would people choose what they think would maximize their subjective well-being (SWB)? We 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 in our data, we find systematic reversals. We identify factors - such as predicted sense of purpose, control over one’s life, family happiness, and social status - that help explain hypothetical choice controlling for predicted SWB. We explore how our findings vary by SWB measure and by scenario. Our results have implications regarding the use of SWB survey questions as a proxy for utility.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 42
Keywords: happiness, life satisfaction, subjective well-being, hypothetical choice, utility
JEL Classification: D03, D60Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: July 28, 2011
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