What Do You Think Would Make You Happier? What Do You Think You Would Choose?
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)
University of Pennsylvania - Operations & Information Management Department
July 27, 2011
American Economic Review, 102(5): 2083–2110
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, D60
Date posted: July 28, 2011 ; Last revised: September 22, 2013