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smilesquadWSJ: Science is exploring the roots of joy – and companies are putting the findings to work. Here (sub.req.) is the story. Click on the image to see some of the leading happiness researchers and their findings.

related items:
Measurement Without Measurement, Arnold Kling
Honest Measurement, Bryan Caplan
benny (guest) meinte am 19. Mar, 14:10:
happiness research = crap for science?
i cant see any benefits of happiness research. happiness accross people is just not comperable for peoples ranking their happiness on a level from 1 to 5. its neither comperable for people doing the same test at the same time nor is it comperable for people accross countries/years/whatever.

if you say at a certain level of wealth in a country happiness does stop to increase on the scale of 1 to 5 (for example, read such an thing anywhere before), then this is just an argument with low significance in my opinion...

for example take two countries A, B. both countries are above the "income happiness boundary", country A by +-0 and B by any huge number. If those peoples happiness is the same on average at any given time, it most certainly would not be the same if someonone took just all the extra wealth of country B because it is not needed and faces the people with their loss of wealth.

isnt happiness just an easy replacement for utility? 
Mahalanobis antwortete am 20. Mar, 00:25:
happiness accross people is just not comperable for peoples ranking their happiness on a level from 1 to 5. its neither...
Why? Imagine you estimate a happiness regression model (by ordered logit/probit) and figure out that personal unemployment has an economically and statistically significant negative effect (and the coefficients of the socioeconomic and sociodemographic variables make sense too). Would you still say that happiness isn't comparable? Or at least that no insights will come from further research?

The CESIfo offers a Video Lecture Series on Happiness Research in Economics by Bruno Frey. In the first lecture (neat overview) Frey also talkes about the effect of unemployment on happiness. He says that being unemployed, even when receiving the same income as when employed, has a large negative effect on happiness. My conclusion would be to remove minimum wage laws. Unfortunately, Frey only talks about the Phillips Curve, policies to provide work, and full employment. So as far as I can tell, the problem with happiness research is that it's infested by left-leaning weirdos. 
Paul N (guest) antwortete am 20. Mar, 03:33:
I think happiness research is fascinating. I know it pisses a lot of people off, I think in part because of the following reasons:

(1) Happiness research finds that Nigerians/Mexicans are happier than Americans, so Americans get upset thinking about how much they would hate living like Nigerians or Mexicans, and dismiss happiness research out of hand.

(2) Like Michael says, a lot of the people presenting the research are doing so with left-wing policy recommendations that don't logically follow from the research. To conclude that because increasing income doesn't make you much happier, we should have more progressive taxes is hideously simpletonic and anyone who has such a gruesomely oversimplified view of how the world works really shouldn't be given much attention when they release papers.

A lot of the anti-market backlash against economics has to do with this whole "economists make the mistake that people are income-maximizers" thing. Some happiness researchers want to make happiness the new thing that we all strive to maximize, but I don't think people are rational at maximizing their happiness any more than they are at maximizing their income - in fact I think they're much worse at it. Like it or not, we are evolutionarily geared to maximize reproduction/status/etc. If evolution had instead made us happiness maximizers, we wouldn't have made it this far - we probably wouldn't get out of bed in the morning, and if we did we wouldn't get anything done.

To me, happiness isn't THE NUMBER, it's just another number. It's genuinely interesting to me that society A is happier than society B even though B has more income, but it implies absolutely nothing about policy; it doesn't imply that A should strive to be more like B and it certainly doesn't imply that no one in A should make more $ than the happy B people.

Like anything else, you have to be careful not to attribute causation to whatever the first theory is that pops into your mind. 
benny (guest) antwortete am 21. Mar, 01:06:
utility not money
economics say that people behave rational and maximize their utililty not their money. someone could have the weirdest utility for the weirdest goods (or bads), any economist would't (have to) say he is maximizing somethings...

i propably like the subjective utility theory of the austrian school more, because it does not primarly focus on rationallity. rationality used by mainstream economists somehow implies that peoples decisions have to be rational in an objective way which is not necesserally the case very often..

i wouldnt dismiss the happiness <=> unemployment research directly, because the population in countries or greater regions is mostly quite homogeneous. I definatly wouldn't accept happiness research across multiple countries which have large income differences though, there are just to many factors unaccounted for.

for example the mexicans <=> americans example (i dont know if its true that mexicans are happier then americans) sounds strange to me, because after all thounsands of mexicans try to pass the border illegally to get to america and not the other way round. this maybe a good example how subjective happiness is, because people (at least i am) are heavily influenced by the relation of the happiness of other people.

i would certainly say i am quite happy, because many people here in germany live worse then i am. wouldn't that be the case for people in third world countries too? or in any poorer country in the world? isnt the human beings focus on happiness not globally, but regional, on his tribe, family, peers, or on the people living in the same city or region as him? i certainly don't ever thing about the happiness of mexians or americans and i definatly don't care. i do think about the happiness of germans though, because i see some of them every day in the world around me. 
Mahalanobis antwortete am 21. Mar, 13:42:
@utility/rationality: If I understand you correctly, you are saying that most economic models are too parsimonious, i.e. they don't adequately account for the heterogeneity in preferences. Damn tradeoffs ;-D.

@cross-country comparison: Why not ask Mexicans about their perceived relative happiness? Maybe they respond--on average--that they are x units unhappier than the average American and y units happier than the average Ghanaian. 
Acad Ronin (guest) meinte am 19. Mar, 23:20:
Two interesting problems with happiness
1: Acounting for schadenfeude - my joy at someone else's misfortune.

2: Relative position - my joy at knowing that there are things that I have (could be status, wealth, whatever), that are greater than X percent of the population, or my reference set. 
benny (guest) antwortete am 21. Mar, 01:11:
just saw...
...that you are concerned about relative position too, i think its the greatest problem of happiness research as it is of economic utility. therefore it could be treated like almost the same. 
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