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Well-Being for Public Policy$
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Ed Diener, Richard Lucas, Ulrich Schimmack, and John Helliwell

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195334074

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195334074.001.0001

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Issues Regarding the Use of Well-Being Measures for Policy

Issues Regarding the Use of Well-Being Measures for Policy

(p.95) Chapter 6 Issues Regarding the Use of Well-Being Measures for Policy
Well-Being for Public Policy

Ed Diener

Richard E. Lucas

Ulrich Schimmack

John F. Helliwell

Oxford University Press

Besides concerns about measurement validity, a number of other potential problems are often believed to accompany the use of well-being measures to assist policy makers. One objection is that it is paternalistic for policy makers to be concerned with the well-being of individuals, and another concern is that people adapt to circumstances so that the objective conditions of a society are not reflected in people’s subjective evaluations of life. The underlying issue here is whether people’s well-being is so subject to comparisons—with other people, with one’s past, and with personal aspirations—that using the surveys to inform policy becomes unwise. Evidence is reviewed that certain conditions have enduring effects on well-being, and that subjective well-being is not completely relative. Thus, many of the concerns about using well-being for policy are exaggerated or unfounded.

Keywords:   adaptation, aspirations, policy, social comparison

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