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Measuring Happiness


Happiness is about people’s feelings, so it’s measured by asking people how they feel: how happy they are, how satisfied with their lives, or where they stand on a “ladder of life.” The answers to such state-of-life questions turn out to be truthful and for most people do not change much from day to day or week to week. The responses are also comparable, because most people everywhere, when asked what’s important for their happiness, voice the same three principal factors: economic situation, family life, and health. Although responses differ from one person to the next in what specifically makes for happiness, these differences typically average out when we study groups of people, whether they are rich or poor, young or old, Americans or Indonesians. The three main sources of happiness predominate everywhere.

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Fig. 2.1

References and Further Reading

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  • Helliwell, J. F., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. D. (Eds.). (2019). World happiness report 2019 (pp. 13–47). New York, NY: Sustainable Solutions Network.

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  • Helliwell, J. F., & Wang, S. (2013). The state of world happiness. In J. F. Helliwell, R. Layard, & J. D. Sachs (Eds.), World happiness report (pp. 10–57). New York, NY: Earth Institute of Columbia University.

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  • Kapteyn, A., Lee, J., Tassot, C., Vonkova, H., & Zamarro, G. (2015). Dimensions of subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 123, 625–660.

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  • Mishan, E. J. (1969). Welfare economics: Ten introductory essays. New York, NY: Random House.

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Easterlin, R.A. (2021). Measuring Happiness. In: An Economist’s Lessons on Happiness. Springer, Cham.

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