nep-hap New Economics Papers
on Economics of Happiness
Issue of 2022‒03‒07
five papers chosen by

  1. Time use and happiness: Evidence across three decades By Han, Jeehoon; Kaiser, Caspar
  2. Well-Being Measurement By Matthew D. Adler; Koen Decancq
  3. Familiar Faces, Worn Out Places: The Effect of Personal and Place Prosperity On Well-Being By Sandher, Jeevun
  4. Using a factorial survey to estimate the relative importance of well-being dimensions according to older people: insights from a repeated survey experiment in Flanders By Veerle Van Loon; Koen Decancq
  5. Forthcoming in "Journal of the History of Economic Though" in 2024. Title: "Does Friendship Stem from Altruism? Adam Smith and the Distinction between Love-based and Interest-based Preferences" By Khalil, Elias

  1. By: Han, Jeehoon; Kaiser, Caspar (University of Oxford)
    Abstract: We use large-scale diary data from a representative sample of Americans to proxy welfare at the level of individual activities. We make three contributions. First, we examine the association between individual activities and happiness, and show how this association has changed over time. Compared to 1985, domestic work and social care produce more happiness today. Watching TV produces less happiness today than it used to. Second, we combine activity-level data on happiness and time allocation to construct a measure of ‘time-weighted happiness’. We then analyse historical trends in this measure across population groups, particularly gender. We observe that, over the last 35 years, women’s time-weighted happiness has improved significantly relative to men’s. This trend is largely driven by gendered shifts in time allocation, rather than heterogenous trends in the enjoyability of individual activities. Our result is in stark contrast to previous work which showed a decline in women’s relative wellbeing. To explain this, our third contribution is to compare the determinants of life satisfaction – a global measure on which most previous work is built – with our measure of time-weighted happiness. Time-weighted happiness and life satisfaction turn out to only be weakly correlated. Moreover, although we obtain strong associations of income and employment status with life satisfaction, no such associations can be observed for time-weighted happiness. These findings highlight the importance of distinguishing between happiness as experienced in time and more global wellbeing measures. Finally, we verify the robustness our results by replicating them in data from the United Kingdom and show that our results are robust to alternative assumptions about how people use happiness scales.
    Date: 2021–10–03
  2. By: Matthew D. Adler; Koen Decancq
    Date: 2021–05
  3. By: Sandher, Jeevun
    Abstract: Higher rates of income inequality are correlated with lower average well-being across different domains (such as health, financial security, friendship etc.) across nations. It is unclear, however, whether this pattern is driven by income differences between people or if places also play a role. In this paper, I test this by constructing a Se- nian Capability Index of well-being and then testing the relative role of personal and place-based prosperity on its domains using linked individual-area data. I find that while personal income has the strongest link to well-being domains, places also also have a significant, non-uniform, association as well. These effects differ between the labour market and neighbourhood level spatial scales. Local labour market prosperity gives its residents higher potential incomes and is associated with greater financial se- curity and more friends. Moving to a more prosperous labour market also indirectly improves well-being by increasing potential incomes. Neighbourhood prosperity is as- sociated with greater overall well-being, physical security, and a lower probability of death. These results suggest that policies aimed at improving personal and place-based characteristics are needed to create a “good life” for all citizens.
    Date: 2022–01–06
  4. By: Veerle Van Loon; Koen Decancq
    Date: 2021–10
  5. By: Khalil, Elias
    Abstract: Friendship-and-love expresses musings about wellbeing—while “wellbeing” is the economist’s substantive satisfaction. Insofar as altruism is about wellbeing, it must differ from friendship-and-love. However, what is the basis of the difference between substantive satisfaction and friendship-and-love? The answer can be found in Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, chapter 2: how “mutual sympathy” differs from “sympathy.” Smith scholars generally miss the uniqueness of “mutual sympathy” and, indeed, fold it under Smith’s “sympathy” (and “empathy”)—with one exception. Robert Sugden highlights the uniqueness of mutual sympathy. However, he goes to the other end, folding Smith’s “sympathy-and-empathy” under “mutual sympathy.” This paper aims to avoid the folding in either direction. While mutual sympathy originates love-based sociality (friendship-and-love), sympathy-and-empathy originates interest-based sociality (wellbeing that includes altruism). This paper concludes that friendship is neither reducible to altruism nor vice versa. Further, this paper distinguishes this problem from the question regarding the socialization of the individual.
    Date: 2021–12–17

General information on the NEP project can be found at For comments please write to the director of NEP, Marco Novarese at <>. Put “NEP” in the subject, otherwise your mail may be rejected.
NEP’s infrastructure is sponsored by the School of Economics and Finance of Massey University in New Zealand.