Public Choice

, Volume 144, Issue 3–4, pp 557–573 | Cite as

Happiness and public choice

  • Bruno S. FreyEmail author
  • Alois Stutzer


Measuring individual welfare using data on reported subjective well-being has made great progress. It offers a new way of confronting public choice hypotheses with field data, e.g., with respect to partisan preferences or rents in the public bureaucracy. Insights from public choice also help to assess the role of happiness measures in public policy. We emphasize that maximizing aggregate happiness as a social welfare function neglects incentive problems and political institutions while citizens are reduced to metric stations. The goal of happiness research should be to improve the nature of the processes through which individuals can express their preferences.


Economic policy Happiness Life satisfaction Public choice Social welfare 

JEL Classification

D60 D70 H11 I31 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Empirical Research in EconomicsUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.CREMA—Center for Research in Economics, Management and the ArtsBaselSwitzerland
  3. 3.University of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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