American Economic Review2014-10-13 4:05 PM

Beyond Happiness and Satisfaction: Toward Well-Being Indices Based on Stated Preference

Abstract 

This paper proposes foundations and a methodology for survey-based tracking of well-being. First, we develop a theory in which utility depends on "fundamental aspects" of well-being, measurable with surveys. Second, drawing from psychologists, philosophers, and economists, we compile a comprehensive list of such aspects. Third, we demonstrate our proposed method for estimating the aspects' relative marginal utilities—a necessary input for constructing an individual-level well-being index—by asking ~4,600 U.S. survey respondents to state their preference between pairs of aspect bundles. We estimate high relative marginal utilities for aspects related to family, health, security, values, freedom, happiness, and life satisfaction.


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American Economic Review

The American Economic Review is a general-interest economics journal. Established in 1911, the AER is among the nation's oldest and most respected scholarly journals in the economics profession.

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