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Can Marginal Rates of Substitution Be Inferred from Happiness Data? Evidence from Residency Choices

Daniel Benjamin, Ori Heffetz, Miles Kimball and Alex Rees-Jones

American Economic Review, 2014, vol. 104, issue 11, 3498-3528

Abstract: We survey 561 students from U.S. medical schools shortly after they submit choice rankings over residencies to the National Resident Matching Program. We elicit (a) these choice rankings, (b) anticipated subjective well-being (SWB) rankings, and (c) expected features of the residencies (such as prestige). We find substantial differences between choice and anticipated-SWB rankings in the implied tradeoffs between residency features. In our data, evaluative SWB measures (life satisfaction and Cantril's ladder) imply tradeoffs closer to choice than does affective happiness (even time-integrated), and as close as do multi-measure SWB indices. We discuss implications for using SWB data in applied work.

JEL-codes: D12 I31 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2014
Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.104.11.3498
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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:104:y:2014:i:11:p:3498-3528