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Well-being and Public Policy: The Collective Pursuit of Happiness Ulrich Schimmack University of Toronto Mississauga.

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Presentation on theme: "Well-being and Public Policy: The Collective Pursuit of Happiness Ulrich Schimmack University of Toronto Mississauga."— Presentation transcript:

1 Well-being and Public Policy: The Collective Pursuit of Happiness Ulrich Schimmack University of Toronto Mississauga

2 Well-Being is a Popular Topic

3 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?

4 Public Policy and Well-Being

5 Report by the Stiglitz Commission

6 What is Well-Being?

7 A List Approach An individual with high well being … A. is healthy B. is ill A. is freeB. is unfree (imprisoned) A. is safeB. is threatened A.feels happyB. feels unhappy A. is educatedB. is uneducated A. is richB. is poor

8 What is well-being? -Objective definition: optimal functioning


10 What is well-being? - Subjective definition: Preference Realization The match between an individuals’ actual and ideal life.

11 Classic Welfare Economics - Paul Samuelson - 1970 Nobel laureate - Utility / Efficient Markets - Income - Opportunity to realize preferences - Limited to market goods and services

12 2008 Ranking of Nations (IMF Data)

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

14 2007 Ranking of Nations

15 Subjective Indicators - Hadley Cantril - Public Opinion researcher - Cantril’s Ladder (1965) - Single-Rating 0 = worst possible life 10= best possible life

16 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 7.84 19907.88 20007.80 20067.72

17 1990-2000 Ranking of Nations ults/happinessmap/

18 Well-Being and Wealth (PPP) Linear r =.83, log-function r =.82 Source. Schimmack (2007).

19 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.

20 Variation within Nations - Most results are based on data from other, yet similar countries (USA, Germany). - Results could be different in Canada.

21 "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)

22 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

23 Daily Life-Satisfaction of US Americans

24 Money and Well-Being Scientific Evidence - Wealthier individuals are happier - Money buys (some) happiness Policy Implications - Progressive taxes - Universal health care

25 Personality and Well-Being - Twin studies - Same genes, different lives - Similar well-being CBS Show “Giggle Twins”

26 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).

27 Policy Implications? - Change dispositions - Education (Positive Psychology) - Psychotherapy - Drugs (Prozac) - Social Policies - Tax cheerfulness - Ignore dispositions - Focus on external factors

28 Source. Knabe, A. & Raetzel, S. (2007). Quantifying the psychological costs of unemployment. FEMM Working Paper, 12, April 2007. Unemployment and Life-Satisfaction

29 Source. Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, & Helliwell (2009). Life Satisfaction of White and Black US Americans

30 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.

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

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