Quotulatiousness

November 29, 2012

“One economist [said] that his colleagues’ pursuit of happiness was depressing him”

Filed under: Books, Economics, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:01

If you read newspapers or magazines, you’ll have noticed a spike in the economics of happiness over the last few years. Everyone seems to be reporting results of happiness surveys from all over … few of whom seem to agree on how to measure it or in some cases even what it is that they’re trying to measure. Claude Fischer talks about this recent boom market:

Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Commission uses citizens’ reports of their happiness to assess national progress, and former French President Nicholas Sarkozy appointed a Nobel-encrusted commission to study a similar idea; the United Nations places “happiness indicators” on its war-burdened agenda; American science institutions pour money into fine-tuning measurements of “subjective well-being”; and Amazon’s list of happiness books by moonlighting professors runs from The Happiness Hypothesis to Stumbling on Happiness, Authentic Happiness, Engineering Happiness, and beyond.

Since at least the 1950s, academics have analyzed surveys asking people how happy or satisfied they feel. We’ve used fuzzy questions such as, “Taken all together, how would you say things are these days — would you say that you are very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy?” to assess respondents’ morale. We’ve compared, say, women to men and the poor to the rich. Dutch sociologist Ruut Veenhoven started compiling the findings into his World Database of Happiness back in the 1980s.

So what set off the current frenzy? Economists found happiness.

In the decade after 2000, the number of articles on happiness in major economics journals roughly tripled. One economist told me a couple of years ago that his colleagues’ pursuit of happiness was depressing him. Nonetheless, established leaders and bright new scholars turned to the topic and brought with them the funding, media prestige, and political clout of the profession. That a guild which prides itself on scientific rigor and hardheadedness would embrace such a sappy concept measured in such mushy ways is, well, bemusing. Even Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke drew on the new economics of happiness to find the moral for his 2010 commencement address to University of South Carolina graduates: “I urge you to take this research to heart by making time for friends and family and by being part of and contributing to a larger community.”

November 14, 2010

Wandering minds or wandered researchers?

Filed under: Health, Randomness — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:02

I can’t improve at all on Chris Myrick’s comment on this article:

Harvard psychologists have determined that we are happiest when: having sex, exercising, in intense conversations with friends, listening to music or playing. Aside from their use of an iPhone app to determine this, (http://www.trackyourhappiness.org/), I’m missing the news value.

However, I see potential for a follow-up study where researchers can determine whether receiving phone messages during sex, sport or engaging conversation puts a damper on someone’s mood.

June 21, 2010

QotD: Children and parenting styles

Filed under: Economics, Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:38

If you enjoy reading with your children, wonderful. But if you skip the nightly book, you’re not stunting their intelligence, ruining their chances for college or dooming them to a dead-end job. The same goes for the other dilemmas that weigh on parents’ consciences. Watching television, playing sports, eating vegetables, living in the right neighborhood: Your choices have little effect on your kids’ development, so it’s OK to relax. In fact, relaxing is better for the whole family. Riding your kids “for their own good” rarely pays off, and it may hurt how your children feel about you.

Once parents stop overcharging themselves for every child, the next logical step is straight out of Econ 101: Buy more. When you raise your children the easy way, another child is more likely to pass the cost-benefit test. This doesn’t mean you should copy the Duggars with their 19 children; when prices fall, Econ 101 says “Buy more,” not “Buy dozens.” But whatever your priorities, the science of nature and nurture tilts the scales in favor of fertility.

As you weigh your options, don’t forget that the costs of kids are front-loaded, and the benefits are back-loaded. Babies are a lot of work even if you’re easy on yourself. But the older kids get, the more independent they become; eventually, you’ll want them to find time for you. So when weighing whether to have another child, you shouldn’t base your decision on how you feel after a few days — or months — of sleepless nights with a new baby. Focus on the big picture, consider the ideal number of children to have when you’re 30, 40, 60 and 80, and strike a happy medium. Remember: The more kids you have, the more grandkids you can expect. As an old saying goes, “If I had known grandchildren were this much fun I would have had them first.”

Bryan Caplan, “The Breeders’ Cup: Social science may suggest that kids drain their parents’ happiness, but there’s evidence that good parenting is less work and more fun than people think”, The Wall Street Journal, 2010-06-19

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