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Subjective well-being over the life course: Evidence and policy implications

Organised by OECD, CEPREMAP, What Works Centre for Wellbeing , and CEP

Date: Monday 12 - Tuesday13 December 2016
Time: 09:30 - 18:30
Venue: London School of Economics

Conference Programme | List of Participants
Conference Slides Day 1 | Conference Slides Day 2

video recordings (external link to YouTube)

Watch all the sessions and keynote addresses from this landmark conference:

Conference information

Why should governments care about people's wellbeing? How would policy change if raising wellbeing was the objective?

Understanding how people experience and feel about their lives provides valuable information for policy-makers. But for public policy to improve people's subjective well-being, we need a good understanding of what drives it. This two-day conference will examine the latest evidence from UK and international research on the determinants of subjective well-being over the life course, and what this might mean for policy-making.

Supported by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, this event is a landmark conference reporting the first results from a collaboration between the London School of Economics Centre for Economic Performance, the CEPREMAP Wellbeing Observatory at the Paris School of Economics, the OECD, and an international consortium of researchers.

The first day of the conference featured an overview of UK findings, presented by Lord Richard Layard, Andrew Clark, and Nick Powdthavee. This will be followed by a broad debate about how subjective well-being evidence can improve policy-making. The second day involved a more detailed look at the international evidence from an OECD Consortium, featuring results from the United States, France, Germany, Australia, Norway, Denmark and Sweden.

Other event highlights include:

  • Keynote addresses from Lord Gus O'Donnell, Jeffrey Sachs, Mari Kiviniemi, John Helliwell, and Alan Krueger
  • High-level panel discussions on well-being and policy
  • The launch of a new Wellbeing Society

Conference slides (PDF)


Conference opened by Lord Gus O’Donnell “Subjective well-being and policy”
Objective of the conference: Martine Durand (OECD)
Wellbeing over the life course (Presentation of The Origins of Happiness)

Keynote address by Jeffrey Sachs (Columbia University) "Economics for the Common Good"
Keynote address by Mari Kiviniemi (OECD Deputy Secretary General)

Panel session 1: Why should policy-makers care about people’s wellbeing?

  • Ohood Al Roumi (Minister of State for Happiness, United Arab Emirates)
  • Eva Christiansen (German Chancellery)
  • Oliver Letwin (former UK Cabinet Minister)
  • Vincent Aussilloux (France Stratégie)

Panel session 2: How would policies differ if wellbeing was the objective?

  • David Halpern (UK Behavioural Insights Team)
  • John Helliwell (University of British Columbia)
  • Girol Karacaoglu (New Zealand School of Government)
  • Mark Pearson (OECD)

Closing keynote speaker: Alan Krueger (via video, YouTube)

Launch of a new Wellbeing Society: Paul Frijters (University of Queensland)


OECD Consortium on Life-Course Determinants of Wellbeing

USA : Effects of adolescence (Wisconsin Longitudinal Survey USA)
Andrew Clark (PSE/CEP). Discussant: Stephen Jenkins (LSE)

GERMANY: Expanding the toolbox for measuring well-being to include text responses from quantitative social science survey data: Age and Cohort Effects in the SOEP
Gert G. Wagner (DIW). Discussant: Conal Smith (OECD)

NORWAY: Effects of birth order on life outcomes
Kjell Salvanes (Norwegian School of Economics). Discussant: Stephen Machin (LSE CEP)

SWEDEN: Family and childhood correlates of adult outcomes in register data
Daniela Andren and Sune Karlsson (Örebro University School of Business). Discussant: Nick Powdthavee

FRANCE: Early childcare arrangements and children's psychological development (EDEN)
Maria Melchior (Pierre Louis Institute for Epidemiology and Public Health). Discussant: Alex Wood (University of Stirling)

DENMARK: Explaining inter-area variation in wellbeing
Niels Ploug and Jens Bonke (Statistics Denmark). Discussant: Steve Gibbons (LSE)

AUSTRALIA: Resilience: The effect of childhood circumstances on later life wellbeing variability (HILDA)
Paul Frijters (University of Queensland). Discussant: Andrew Steptoe (UCL)

Closing address by John Helliwell (UBC)
What have we learned from life-course evidence?  How does it relate to other evidence?

Monday 14 December: video recording

Conference opening: Lord Gus O’Donnell
Objective of the conference: Martine Durand (OECD)

Tuesday 13 December: video capture (please note that this is raw unedited footage)

Morning Session (USA; Germany; Norway)

Session 2 (Sweden; France)

Session 3 (Denmark; Australia; Closing Address)