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Do People Seek to Maximize Their Subjective Well‐Being?


Fleurbaey, Marc; Schwandt, Hannes (2015). Do People Seek to Maximize Their Subjective Well‐Being? IZA Discussion Paper 9450, University of Zurich.

Abstract

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.

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.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Working Paper
Communities & Collections:03 Faculty of Economics > Department of Economics
Dewey Decimal Classification:330 Economics
JEL Classification:D03, D60
Language:English
Date:October 2015
Deposited On:19 Feb 2016 15:29
Last Modified:12 Jul 2016 07:58
Series Name:IZA Discussion Paper
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-122913

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