CEP LSE RSS Contact Us YouTube Facebook Twitter

photo: Zarghamee Professor Homa Zarghamee
Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, Barnard College, Columbia 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
An excellent summary along with policy implications can be found in Helliwell (2006). Helliwell, John F. 2006. "Well-Being, Social Capital and Public Policy: What's New?" The Economic Journal. 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
While RCTs can be an important tool, we can glean plenty from national survey data and natural experiments. Privileging any one method of inquiry is unnecessary and potentially disaffecting. 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
The effort required of women donating eggs is significantly greater than men donating sperm. The long-term risks to women's physical health (e.g., cancer, premature menopause, and infertility) are still unknown. 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
Sweden's right-to-know was followed by a shortage in Sweden so that the majority of Swedish women seeking insemination use sperm from Denmark, which maintains anonymity. Britain's right to know has been followed by similar shortages. That said, any shortage can in theory be eliminated with increased incentives to donate. One such experiment was conducted in the US: https://academic.oup.com/jlb/article/3/3/468/2433403/Sperm-donor-anonymity-and-compensation-an Importantly, a minority of children of donation have sought out the donating parent. Much of the trouble seems to lie in not having been told the circumstances of birth (e.g., the social father is not the biological father), less in the donating parent's identity.Disagree

Organisational structures on workers' wellbeing

January 2017
Employees in more hierarchical organisations have higher levels of wellbeing than those of flatter organisations.Response
Research shows that happiness with hierarchical versus flat organizations is worker-, leader-, and context-specific (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191308510000031). The two types of organizations attract different types of employees (http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1948550616649241). The uncertainty, lack of clarity, and lack of coordination associated with flat organizations may be upsetting for some (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24512510); for others, such concerns may pale in comparison to the increased empowerment associated with flat organizations.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 context-specificity of the relationship between employee wellbeing and organizational hierarchy suggests that policies favoring all hierarchical organizations (without qualification) would diminish many workers' wellbeing.Disagree