Measuring Happiness, Suffering, and
Other Dimensions of Experience
Panel on Measuring Subjective Well-Being in a Policy-Relevant Framework
Arthur A. Stone and Christopher Mackie, Editors
Committee on National Statistics
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the panel responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study was supported by Task Order No. N01-OD-42139 between the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the National Academy of Sciences, and award number 10000592 between the UK Economic and Social Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences. Support for the Committee on National Statistics is provided by a consortium of federal agencies through a grant from the National Science Foundation (award number SES-1024012). Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project.
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Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2013). Subjective Well-Being: Measuring Happiness, Suffering, and Other Dimensions of Experience. Panel on Measuring Subjective Well-Being in a Policy-Relevant Framework. A.A. Stone and C. Mackie, Editors. Committee on National Statistics, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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PANEL ON MEASURING SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING IN A POLICY-RELEVANT FRAMEWORK
ARTHUR A. STONE (Chair), Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stony Brook University
NORMAN M. BRADBURN, Department of Psychology, University of Chicago
LAURA L. CARSTENSEN, Department of Psychology, Stanford University
EDWARD F. DIENER, Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
PAUL H. DOLAN, Department of Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science
CAROL L. GRAHAM, The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC, and School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park
V. JOSEPH HOTZ, Department of Economics, Duke University
DANIEL KAHNEMAN, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
ARIE KAPTEYN, Center for Economic and Social Research, University of Southern California, and RAND Corporation
AMANDA SACKER, Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London
NORBERT SCHWARZ, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan
JUSTIN WOLFERS, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan
CHRISTOPHER MACKIE, Study Director
ANTHONY S. MANN, Program Coordinator
COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL STATISTICS 2013-2014
LAWRENCE D. BROWN (Chair), Department of Statistics, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
JOHN M. ABOWD, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University
MARY ELLEN BOCK, Department of Statistics, Purdue University
DAVID CARD, Department of Economics, University of California, Berkeley
ALICIA CARRIQUIRY, Department of Statistics, Iowa State University
MICHAEL E. CHERNEW, Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School
CONSTANTINE GATSONIS, Center for Statistical Sciences, Brown University
JAMES S. HOUSE, Survey Research Center, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan
MICHAEL HOUT, Department of Sociology, New York University
SALLIE ANN KELLER, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech, Arlington, Virginia
LISA LYNCH, The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University
COLM A. O’MUIRCHEARTAIGH, Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago
RUTH D. PETERSON, Criminal Justice Research Center, Ohio State University
EDWARD H. SHORTLIFFE, Department of Biomedical Informatics, Columbia University and Arizona State University
HAL STERN, Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, University of California, Irvine
CONSTANCE F. CITRO, Director
JACQUELINE R. SOVDE, Program Associate
This report is the product of contributions from many colleagues, whom we thank for their insights and counsel. The project was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of the National Institutes of Health and by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). We thank Richard Suzman and Lis Nielsen at NIA and Paul Boyle, Joy Todd, Ruth Lee, and Margot Walker at ESRC for their leadership in the area of subjective well-being (SWB) measurement and for their guidance and input to the project.
The panel also thanks the following individuals who attended the panel’s open meetings and generously presented material to inform our deliberations. Angus Deaton (Princeton University) informed the panel about his analyses of Gallup data and other relevant research; Robert Groves (then director of the U.S. Census Bureau, now provost of Georgetown University) provided an overview of the potential role of federal surveys and statistical programs for advancing the measurement of SWB; and Richard Frank (Harvard University) and Jennifer Madans (National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) outlined the role of SWB measures in health research and policy and informed the panel about government experiences with them. Paul Allin, Stephen Hicks, Glenn Everett, and Dawn Snape (UK Office for National Statistics) provided overviews of exciting experimental work ongoing in the United Kingdom. Conal Smith, Carrie Exton, and Marco Mira d’Ercole (OECD) kept the panel abreast of their impressive work on the OECD Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being, which was being conducted as the panel’s
work was under way. Somnath Chatterji (World Health Organization) discussed the organization’s ongoing work on SWB as it pertains to health; Rachel Kranz-Kent (Bureau of Labor Statistics) provided an overview and plans for the agency’s American Time Use Survey module on SWB; Michael Wolfson (University of Ottawa; formerly, Statistics Canada) informed the panel about Canada’s experiences in developing and using well-being and quality-of-life measures; Steven Landefeld (Bureau of Economic Analysis) outlined the role of national economic accounts in measuring welfare and their relationship to measures of well-being; Michael Horrigan (Bureau of Labor Statistics) described his agency’s interests in time-use statistics and well-being measures; Hermann Habermann (formerly with the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, the United Nations Statistical Division, and the U.S. Census Bureau) provided insights into U.S. and international statistical agencies’ perspectives on the measurement of SWB; and Georgios Kavetsos and Laura Kudrna (London School of Economics) summarized their research findings (with panel member Paul Dolan) from analyses of data from the UK Office for National Statistics.
The panel could not have conducted its work efficiently without a very capable staff. Constance Citro, director of the Committee on National Statistics, and Robert Hauser, director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (DBASSE), provided institutional leadership and substantive contributions during meetings; Kirsten Sampson-Snyder, DBASSE, expertly coordinated the review process; and Robert Katt provided thoughtful and thorough final editing. We also thank program coordinator Anthony Mann for his terrific logistical support of our local and overseas meetings.
On behalf of the panel, I especially thank the study director, Christopher Mackie, for his superb oversight of the panel’s activities and his substantive contributions to the panel’s work and this report. He skillfully and intelligently organized meetings and helped create a cordial and stimulating environment for conducting the panel’s work. Chris mastered an entirely new domain of knowledge and contributed to the report by his careful and insightful editing of panel members’ preliminary drafts of materials and diligent work on the final draft. And I would like to extend a personal note of gratitude to Chris for his unwavering optimism and good humor throughout this process; it was a delightful experience working with him on this project.
Most importantly, I would like to thank panel members for their patience, creativity, hard work, and graciousness when dealing with one another. Psychologists, sociologists, and economists often have different world views, and the panel was exceptionally cordial and considerate of
all viewpoints. The report reflects collective expertise and commitment of all panel members: Norman Bradburn, University of Chicago; Laura Carstensen, Stanford University; Edward Diener, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Paul Dolan, London School of Economics and Political Science; Carol Graham, The Brookings Institution and University of Maryland, College Park; V. Joseph Hotz, Duke University; Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University; Arie Kapteyn, Center for Economic and Social Research, University of Southern California and RAND Corporation; Amanda Sacker, University College London; Norbert Schwarz, University of Michigan; and Justin Wolfers, University of Michigan. We all benefited from and enjoyed the depth of knowledge the panel members brought—literally—to the table.
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (NRC). The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that assist the institution in making its reports as sound as possible, and to ensure that the reports meet institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process.
The panel thanks the following individuals for their review of this report: Linda M. Bartoshuk, Center for Smell and Taste, University of Florida; Cynthia M. Beall, Department of Anthropology, Case Western Reserve University; Jennie E. Brand, Department of Sociology and California Center for Population Research, University of California, Los Angeles; Dora Costa, Department of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Richard A. Easterlin, Department of Economics, University of Southern California; Jim Harter, Workplace Management and Wellbeing, Gallup; Martin Seligman, Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania; Dylan Smith, Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics, Stony Brook University; Jacqui Smith, Department of Psychology, University of Michigan; Tom W. Smith, NORC at the University of Chicago; Frank Stafford, Department of Economics, University of Michigan; Andrew Steptoe, Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, University College London; and Joseph E. Stiglitz, Graduate School of Business, Columbia University.
Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of the report was overseen by James S. House, Survey
Research Center, Institute of Social Research, University of Michigan, and Ronald Brookmeyer, Department of Biostatistics, University of California, Los Angeles. Appointed by the NRC’s Report Review Committee, they were responsible for making certain that the independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of the report rests entirely with the authoring panel and the NRC.
Arthur A. Stone, Chair
Panel on Measuring Subjective Well-Being
in a Policy-Relevant Framework