42 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2011 Last revised: 22 Sep 2013
Date Written: July 27, 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.
Keywords: happiness, life satisfaction, subjective well-being, hypothetical choice, utility
JEL Classification: D03, D60
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Benjamin, Daniel J. and Heffetz, Ori and Kimball, Miles S. and Rees-Jones, Alex, What Do You Think Would Make You Happier? What Do You Think You Would Choose? (July 27, 2011). American Economic Review, 102(5): 2083–2110; Johnson School Research Paper Series No. 32-2011 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1896182
By Angus Deaton