Do People Seek to Maximize Their Subjective Well‐Being?

33 Pages Posted: 2 Nov 2015

See all articles by Marc Fleurbaey

Marc Fleurbaey

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs

Hannes Schwandt

Princeton University - Center for Health and Wellbeing

Abstract

In a new survey we ask respondents, after a standard Subjective Well‐Being (SWB) question, if they can think of changes in their lives that would improve their SWB score. If the SWB score is just one argument among others in the respondents' goals in life, they should easily find ways to improve it, at the expense of other dimensions they care about. Our results suggest that close to 90% of the respondents actually seek to maximize their SWB. The life satisfaction question appears the best contender as the "maximand" in the contest, before the ladder‐of‐life question and felt happiness. Among the other goals that people pursue and for which they are willing to sacrifice some of their SWB, the prominent appear to be about their relatives and about their future self.

Keywords: subjective well‐being, life satisfaction, happiness, life goals, utility

JEL Classification: D03, D60

Suggested Citation

Fleurbaey, Marc and Schwandt, Hannes, Do People Seek to Maximize Their Subjective Well‐Being?. IZA Discussion Paper No. 9450. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2684280

Marc Fleurbaey (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs ( email )

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Hannes Schwandt

Princeton University - Center for Health and Wellbeing ( email )

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544-0708
United States

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