What Do You Think Would Make You Happier? What Do You Think You Would Choose?

42 Pages Posted: 28 Jul 2011 Last revised: 22 Sep 2013

Daniel J. Benjamin

USC, Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Ori Heffetz

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; University of Colorado Boulder; Center for Economic and Social Research, USC; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Alex Rees-Jones

University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department

Date Written: July 27, 2011

Abstract

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

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

Daniel J. Benjamin

USC, Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR) ( email )

635 Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3332
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Ori Heffetz (Contact Author)

Cornell University - S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management ( email )

324 Sage Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Mount Scopus
Jerusalem, IL 91905
Israel

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~heffetz

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)

University of Colorado Boulder ( email )

Campus Box 256
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
303.492.8295 (Phone)
303.492.8960 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.colorado.edu/Economics/people/faculty/kimball.html

Center for Economic and Social Research, USC ( email )

635 Downey Way
Los Angeles, CA 90089-3332
United States

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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