CEP LSE RSS Contact Us YouTube Facebook Twitter

Abstract:

cover
CEP Discussion Paper
Do People Seek to Maximize Their Subjective Well-Being?
Marc Fleurbaey and Hannes Schwandt
November 2015
Paper No' CEPDP1391:
Full Paper (pdf)

JEL Classification: D03; D60


Tags: subjective well-being; life satisfaction; happiness; life goals; utility

In a new survey we ask respondents, after a standard Subjective Well-Being (SWB) question, if they can think of changes in their lives that would improve their SWB score. If the SWB score is just one argument among others in the respondents’ goals in life, they should easily find ways to improve it, at the expense of other dimensions they care about. Our results suggest that close to 90% of the respondents actually seek to maximize their SWB. The life satisfaction question appears the best contender as the “maximand” in the contest, before the ladder-of-life question and felt happiness. Among the other goals that people pursue and for which they are willing to sacrifice some of their SWB, the prominent appear to be about their relatives and about their future self.