Self-Reported Wellbeing Indicators Are a Valuable Complement to Traditional Economic Indicators but Aren’t Yet Ready to Compete With Them

Behavioural Public Policy, Forthcoming

11 Pages Posted: 6 Oct 2019

See all articles by Daniel J. Benjamin

Daniel J. Benjamin

Anderson School of Management; USC, Center for Economic and Social Research (CESR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Human Genetics Department, David Geffen School of Medicine

Kristen B. Cooper

Gordon College

Ori Heffetz

Cornell University - S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management; The Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics and Center for Rationality; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Miles S. Kimball

University of Colorado Boulder; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; Center for Economic and Social Research, USC; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 19, 2019

Abstract

We join the call for governments to routinely collect survey-based measures of self-reported wellbeing and for researchers to study them. We list a number of challenges that have to be overcome in order for these measures to eventually achieve a status competitive with traditional economic indicators. We discuss in more detail one of the challenges, comprehensiveness: single-question wellbeing measures do not seem to fully capture what people care about. We briefly review the existing evidence, suggesting that survey respondents, when asked to make real or hypothetical tradeoffs, would not always choose to maximize their predicted response to single-question wellbeing measures. The deviations appear systematic, and persist under conditions where alternative explanations are less plausible. We also review an approach for combining single-question measures into a more comprehensive wellbeing index — an approach that itself is not free of ongoing theoretical and implementational challenges, but that we view as a promising direction.

Keywords: Self-Reported Well-Being, Preference, Indicators, Index, Policy

JEL Classification: C43, C83, D11, I31

Suggested Citation

Benjamin, Daniel J. and Benjamin, Daniel J. and Cooper, Kristen B. and Heffetz, Ori and Kimball, Miles S., Self-Reported Wellbeing Indicators Are a Valuable Complement to Traditional Economic Indicators but Aren’t Yet Ready to Compete With Them (September 19, 2019). Behavioural Public Policy, Forthcoming , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3458935

Daniel J. Benjamin

Anderson School of Management ( email )

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

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Human Genetics Department, David Geffen School of Medicine ( email )

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Kristen B. Cooper

Gordon College ( email )

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Ori Heffetz (Contact Author)

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

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The Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics and Center for Rationality

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Miles S. Kimball

University of Colorado Boulder ( email )

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

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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