Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 15, Issue 5, pp 1197–1217 | Cite as

Subjective Well-Being Capabilities: Bridging the Gap Between the Capability Approach and Subjective Well-Being Research

  • Martin Binder
Research Paper


As a result of the disenchantment with traditional income-based measures of welfare, alternative welfare measures have gained increasing attention in recent years. Two of the most prominent measures of well-being come from subjective well-being research and the (objective) capability approach. Despite their promising features, both approaches have a number of weaknesses when considered on their own. This paper sets out to examine to what extent a fusion between both approaches can overcome the weaknesses of both individual approaches. It uses features of the capability framework to enrich what is basically a subjective well-being perspective. Key drawbacks of normative subjective well-being views can be overcome by focussing welfare assessments on “Subjective Well-being Capabilities”, i.e. focussing on the substantive opportunities of individuals to pursue and achieve happiness.


Subjective well-being Capability approach Policy-making Normative economics 



This research was funded by the ESRC-TSB-BIS-NESTA as part of the ES/J008427/1 grant on Skills, Knowledge, Innovation, Policy and Practice (SKIPPY). The author wishes to express his thanks to an anonymous referee for helpful suggestions. The usual caveat applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.SPRUUniversity of SussexBrightonUK
  2. 2.Evolutionary Economics GroupMax Planck Institute of EconomicsJenaGermany

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