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Beyond GDPMeasuring Welfare and Assessing Sustainability$
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Marc Fleurbaey and Didier Blanchet

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199767199

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199767199.001.0001

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Is Happiness All that Matters?

Is Happiness All that Matters?

(p.160) Chapter 5 Is Happiness All that Matters?
Beyond GDP

Marc Fleurbaey

Didier Blanchet

Oxford University Press

This chapter analyzes the ethical underpinnings of subjective well-being indicators, their connections to psychological and philosophical background theories, their relation to economic concepts, and also the empirical strategies for possible improvements. It argues that happiness scores cannot be expected to reflect people’s values and goals in life directly, although they can provide useful information if properly handled. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 5.1 reviews the main arguments from the happiness literature in favor of shifting the focus from material to subjective aspects of well-being and relates them to the classical debate on welfarism. Section 5.2 proposes a theory of subjective well-being as it appears in questionnaires, in relation to the standard concepts of utility and preference orderings that economists are familiar with, but also taking account of perspectives and insights from psychology. Section 5.3 examines how the collection of data could be improved and how such data can be used for the empirical application of different conceptions of well-being.

Keywords:   subjective well-being indicators, happiness scores, welfarism, data collection

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