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University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School

Ethics and Political Philosophy

Social welfare

2013

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Happiness Surveys And Public Policy: What’S The Use?, Matthew D. Adler Jan 2013

Happiness Surveys And Public Policy: What’S The Use?, Matthew D. Adler

Faculty Scholarship at Penn Law

This Article provides a comprehensive, critical overview of proposals to use happiness surveys for steering public policy. Happiness or “subjective well-being” surveys ask individuals to rate their present happiness, life-satisfaction, affective state, etc. A massive literature now engages in such surveys or correlates survey responses with individual attributes. And, increasingly, scholars argue for the policy relevance of happiness data: in particular, as a basis for calculating aggregates such as “gross national happiness,” or for calculating monetary equivalents for non-market goods based on coefficients in a happiness equation.

But is individual well-being equivalent to happiness? The happiness literature tends to blur ...