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photo: Welsch Professor Heinz Welsch
Professor of Economics, University of Oldenburg, Germany

Understanding the effect of policy on national wellbeing

March 2017
Despite dozens of years of research, we still know precious little about what policies increase national wellbeing.Response
There are several robust and uncontroversial findings concerning policies that increase (subjective) wellbeing. These include increasing economic stability and income security, reducing unemployment and inequality, improving work conditions and health care, reducing (air) pollution and reducing corruption. The effectiveness of such policies may depend on the initial situation. For instance, yearly working hours are low in Germany and high in the U.S. I do not think that a further reduction in Germany would create much happiness. Therefore, the issues of non-linearity/satiation points and of heterogeneity are very important. In addition, the effectiveness andfeasibility of many policies may depend on the political culture in the respective nations (e.g. attitude towards "paternalism").Disagree

In order to find out what raises national wellbeing, we need to have thousands of randomised controlled trials in all major areas of national policy.Response
I do not expect that randomised controlled trials will lead to refutation of the existing evidence, in particular if the evidence is based on (quasi) natural experiments. In addition, randomised controlled trials raise ethical issues.Neither agree nor disagree

Wellbeing Effects of Anonymous Donation of Eggs and Sperm

February 2017
Donating gametes (eggs, sperm) via clinics as anonymous donors is one of the highest return-to-effort things individuals can do to increase overall wellbeing.Response
If the aim is "the greatest happiness of the greatest number", adopting a child seems to be a better strategy than in-vitro fertilization (not to mention the potential troubles and hazards of the latter). Disagree

The right of a child to know who their donor was when they turn 18 outweighs (in an overall wellbeing sense) the possibility that this right-to-know leads to a shortage of donors and reduces the number of donor-conceived children.Response
I know little about the happiness impact of a child (not) knowing who their donor was but, as implied by my response to Statement 1, I do not consider a shortage of donors a big threat to overall wellbeing since adopting a child seems to lead to greater happiness for a greater number.Agree

Organisational structures on workers' wellbeing

January 2017
Employees in more hierarchical organisations have higher levels of wellbeing than those of flatter organisations.Response
A flatter organisation may mean that there are more people at the same level, hence you compete with more people. On the other hand, competition may be fiercer when the group is smaller. Other organisational factors, such as the social climate, may be more important for wellbeing (life satisfaction) than the formal structure.Neither agree nor disagree

Tilting the tax and subsidy mix in favour of more hierarchical organisations (in a revenue neutral manner) would probably improve the wellbeing of employees.Response
The effect on wellbeing (life satisfaction) is ambiguous for the same reasons as mentioned in the comment to Statement No. 1.Neither agree nor disagree

Wellbeing and Public Holidays

December 2016
Do you think that populations on average have higher wellbeing during major festive periods like Christmas?Response
The answer depends on what "populations" and what "major festive periods" are in the focus. Concerning populations of "western" countries and the Christmas season, there is a lot of stress involved in the preparation etc. In addition, poorer people may become more aware of material deprivation in the face of massive commercial advertisement. This may be particularly salient in materialistically oriented people. It is therefore questionable whether wellbeing is higher on average during the Christmas season.Disagree

Do you think on balance that average wellbeing would rise if there were more mandatory public holidays in your country?Response
I presume (though I am not sure) that the number of mandatory public holidays is relatively high in my country (Germany) and I do not expect average wellbeing to rise if their number were to increase. There is some inter-state variation in the number of religious holidays, and casual empiricism suggests there is rather a negative relationship between state-level life satisfaction and the number of holidays, but there are numerous confounding factors which prevent firm conclusions. Disagree