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Subjective Well-being and Social Evaluation in a Poor Country

John Knight and Ramani Gunatilak

No 2014-09, CSAE Working Paper Series from Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford

Abstract: The empirical literature on the economics of happiness has grown rapidly, and much has been learned about the determinants of subjective well-being. Less attention has been paid to its normative implications. Taking China as a case study, this paper first summarises empirical results on the determinants of subjective well-being and then considers whether that evidence can be used for social evaluation. Different criteria for social evaluation give very different answers: on the one hand, real income per capita and the human development index have risen rapidly in recent years but, on the other hand, subjective well-being appears not to have risen at all. Ultimately a value judgement is required: arguments are presented for and against including subjective well-being, either alone or with other criteria, in the social welfare function.

Keywords: Capabilities; China; Happiness; Human development; Social evaluation; Subjective well-being (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D03 D63 O15 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-hap, nep-hpe and nep-tra
Date: 2014
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