2. DIMENSIONS OF SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING: AGING, RELIGIOSITY, AND ADAPTATION This subproject will study the use of self-reported measures of well-being, with a view to advancing the measurement of subjective well-being (SWB) and to advancing the understanding of whether and how such measures can and should be used in policy. The analysis rests on the distinction between different concepts of "happiness." One concept is hedonic well-being, the continuous flow of feelings that is experienced on a moment to moment basis. The other is an overall view of how life is going, which comes from a considered judgment. Evidence suggests that these two concepts capture different aspects of human well-being, and that they respond differently to different circumstances. The project will explore this distinction using large new data sets for the United States and for more than 150 countries around the world. It will look at how the different measures of self-reported well-being are related to life circumstances, with a particular focus on age. There are several hypotheses in economics and psychology about how SWB should change over the life-cycle, and these will organize our investigations. Another line of our investigation is the role of religiosity in well-being;the research will seek to better understand both the determinants of religiosity?why people become more religious as they age, why women are more religious than men?as well as the benefits or costs of religion and whether or not they are universal around the world. Another topic is whether subjective well-being is relative: whether well-being depends on a person's own income or on income relative to that of others. One hypothesis is that adaptation can be mistaken for relativity, and that this has consequences for thinking about economic policy for the elderly, including such issues as Social Security and retirement policy. Finally, we will "stress test" a battery of SWB measures over the financial crisis and the subsequent slump using daily data since January 2008. An over-arching theme is to understand whether SWB can be defended as a guide to policy, or whether the criticisms by some philosophers and economists are sufficient to rule them out. A better understanding of adaptation is also key for this last endeavor.
The project will study the use of self-reports as measures of well-being, and will assess whether and how such measures should be used in promoting and assessing health and well-being. Well-being measures are supplements to health measures, but are also important indicators in their own right, perhaps even subsuming health and economic measures. The analysis will use data from the US and 150 other countries.
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