Beyond Happiness and Satisfaction: Toward Well-Being Indices Based on Stated Preference
Daniel J. Benjamin
USC, Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Cornell University - S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management; Hebrew University of Jerusalem; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Miles S. Kimball
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
December 12, 2013
American Economic Review, Forthcoming
This paper proposes foundations and a methodology for survey-based tracking of well-being. First, we develop a theory in which utility depends on “fundamental aspects” of well-being, measurable with surveys. Second, drawing from psychologists, philosophers, and economists, we compile a comprehensive list of such aspects. Third, we demonstrate our proposed method for estimating the aspects’ relative marginal utilities — a necessary input for constructing an individual-level well-being index — by asking ~4,600 U.S. survey respondents to state their preference between pairs of aspect bundles. We estimate high relative marginal utilities not only for happiness and life satisfaction, but also for aspects related to family, health, security, values, and freedoms.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 49
Keywords: happiness, life satisfaction, subjective well-being, stated preference, well-being index
JEL Classification: A13, D69, E01, I31
Date posted: July 31, 2012 ; Last revised: December 20, 2013
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