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Well-being and Public Policy: The Collective Pursuit of Happiness. Ulrich Schimmack University of Toronto Mississauga. Well-Being is a Popular Topic. Public Policy Rules that influence individuals’ pursuit of happiness.

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well being and public policy the collective pursuit of happiness

Well-being and Public Policy: The Collective Pursuit of Happiness

Ulrich SchimmackUniversity of Toronto Mississauga

slide3

Public Policy

  • Rules that influence individuals’ pursuit of happiness.
  • What is (ideally) the goal of public policy? - maximize citizens’ well-being - ensure fair distribution of well-being
  • The Criterion Problem: - What is well-being? - What is fair?
slide5

Report by the Stiglitz Commission

http://www.stiglitz-sen-fitoussi.fr/en/index.htm

slide7

A List Approach

An individual with high well being …

A. is healthy B. is ill

A. is free B. is unfree (imprisoned)

A. is safe B. is threatened

feels happy B. feels unhappy

A. is educated B. is uneducated

A. is rich B. is poor

slide8

What is well-being?

  • Objective definition: optimal functioning
slide10

What is well-being?

  • Subjective definition: Preference Realization
  • The match between an individuals’ actual and ideal life.
slide11

Classic Welfare Economics

  • Paul Samuelson
  • 1970 Nobel laureate
  • Utility / Efficient Markets
  • Income - Opportunity to realize preferences - Limited to market goods and services
slide12

2008 Ranking of Nations (IMF Data)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_per_capita

slide13

Human Development Index

  • Amartya Sen
  • 1998 Nobel laureate
  • Capabilities
  • Human Development Index - Income - Health - Education
slide14

2007 Ranking of Nations

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index

slide15

Subjective Indicators

  • - Hadley Cantril
  • Public Opinion researcher
  • Cantril’s Ladder (1965)
    • Single-Rating
    • 0 = worst possible life10 = best possible life
slide16

Subjective Indicators

All things considered, how satisfied are you with your life as a whole these days?

Please choose a number ranging from 1 = dissatisfied to 10 = satisfied.

World Value Survey Results for Canada:1982 7.841990 7.882000 7.80

2006 7.72

slide17

1990-2000 Ranking of Nations

http://mappingglobalhappiness.wordpress.com/2008/11/01/results/happinessmap/

well being and wealth ppp
Well-Being and Wealth (PPP)

Linear r = .83, log-function r = .82

Source. Schimmack (2007).

slide19

Summary

  • Convergent evidence from different well-being indicators (GDP, HDI, LS).
  • Wealthy nations have higher well-being than poor nations.
  • There is no cut-off point.
  • We are lucky to live in Canada.
slide20

Variation within Nations

  • Most results are based on data from other, yet similar countries (USA, Germany).
  • Results could be different in Canada.
slide21

"Americans who earn $50,000 per year are much happier than those who earn $10,000 per year," writes Gilbert, "but Americans who earn $5 million per year are not much happier than those who earn $100,000 per year."

Lucas & Schimmack (2009)

slide22

How Happy are the Super-Wealthy?

  • Diener et al. (1985)
  • Mailed Happiness Survey to Individuals on Forbes 500 (N = 49)
  • LS IQ m/cm f/cm
  • Average 3.70 100 178 165 Forbes 4.77 115 185 172
slide24

Money and Well-Being

  • Scientific Evidence
  • Wealthier individuals are happier
  • Money buys (some) happiness
  • Policy Implications
  • Progressive taxes
  • Universal health care
slide25

Personality and Well-Being

- Twin studies - Same genes, different lives - Similar well-being

CBS Show “Giggle Twins”

slide26

Longitudinal Stability

  • Life satisfaction is quite stable over time.
  • About 50% of the variation among Canadians is influenced by personality dispositions.
  • Life satisfaction only partially reflects life-circumstances.
  • Source. Schimmack et al. (in press).
slide27

Policy Implications?

  • Change dispositions - Education (Positive Psychology) - Psychotherapy - Drugs (Prozac)
  • Social Policies - Tax cheerfulness
  • Ignore dispositions
    • Focus on external factors
slide28

Unemployment and Life-Satisfaction

Source. Knabe, A. & Raetzel, S. (2007). Quantifying the psychological costs of unemployment. FEMM Working Paper, 12, April 2007.

slide29

Life Satisfaction of White and Black US Americans

Source. Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, & Helliwell (2009).

slide30

Overall Conclusion

  • Subjective measure of well-being are important.
  • They often converge with objective indicators (wealth, unemployment, reduced prejudice).
  • They do not provide simple policy solutions.
  • They do not directly solve the problems of conflicting interests and sustainability.
slide31

Outlook

  • Better information = better choices = better life
  • Recognize and use diversity in preferences
  • Accept some inevitable unhappiness