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photo: Heffetz Professor Ori Heffetz
Associate Professor of Economics, Cornell University and Hebrew University

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
Research has provided a wealth of interesting evidence regarding the correlates of some well-being measures. To name just two examples, we have lots of evidence on how some measures change with age (an exogenous variable), and we have evidence on the correlations between well-being measures and income (an endogenous variable). But we know preciously little about causality (in the case of endogenous variables), we know preciously little about the tradeoffs individuals are willing to make across different aspects/components of well-being and across different time periods (more well-being today versus more well-being in retirement), and we know preciously little about how existing correlations might change once policy changes (something similar to the Lucas Critique in macroeconomics). And I didn't even mention issues of how to aggregate individual well-being measures into a national measure. We need more researchers to join us in trying to figure out the answers to these important questions!Agree strongly

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'm not sure "we need" is how I'd necessarily put it, but it would of course be nice to have experimental evidence on the effects of different policies. This is a crucial input that is badly needed (it's good to go on evidence when possible!). However, such experiments would only fill one gap, leaving many other crucial questions open (see my previous answer). For example, such experiments would not answer the fundamental question: How should national wellbeing be measured?Agree

Organisational structures on workers' wellbeing

January 2017
Employees in more hierarchical organisations have higher levels of wellbeing than those of flatter organisations.Response
I honestly don't know the answer. Once we add hierarchy, I can imagine those at the top getting better off and those at the bottom getting worse off, but perhaps also getting something to look forward to, and it is hard for me to predict the overall effect. I would also imagine this has to depend on intra-organizational mobility, and I am not familiar with evidence on the hierarchy-mobility question.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
See above. And then there is the question of how this is going to be measured and implemented -- another big question.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
People do report higher affective wellbeing during weekends. Unless overcome by festive-period stress, I'd guess they feel better during festive periods too.Agree

Do you think on balance that average wellbeing would rise if there were more mandatory public holidays in your country?Response
The net effect is not obvious to me. For example, affective wellbeing may rise during the added holidays but may fall during other days.Neither agree nor disagree