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What do policymakers know about the factors influencing people's well-being?
Date:5/23/2011

Most people would probably agree that quality of life means more than just material welfare, and it is becoming increasingly common for politicians to be interested in letting people's subjective well-being guide policy. The economist Yonas Alem's research from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, a city of three million people, shows that decision-makers make widely differing guesses about what the citizens themselves consider to make them satisfied with life.

Bhutan is a country that for decades has used gross national happiness instead of gross domestic product as a measure of welfare and social progress. In the United Kingdom, the country's first official subjective well-being index will be published next year. And in France, a commission initiated by the President and chaired by the Nobel Prize winners Stiglitz and Sen concluded that: "Quality of life is a broader concept than economic production and standard of living. It includes the full range of factors that makes life worth living, reaching beyond its material side."

"Subjective well-being is a promising instrument for evaluating political projects and following development over time. But if policymakers are to be able to use it and set priorities in accordance with the preferences of the people they represent, it is important that they have knowledge of what factors influence people's well-being. We believe that both an enlightened debate and enlightened politicians are needed," says Alem.

Like the results of studies in richer western countries, Alem's research results from Addis Ababa, the capital of one of the world's poorest countries, show that married people are more satisfied with life than unmarried and divorced people. Women are happier than men. Health, consumption per capita, the possibility of being able to raise the money to cope with an emergency situation in a week and belief that one's own standard of living can be improved over the next few years are also of great s
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Contact: Yonas Alem
yonas.alem@economics.gu.se
46-031-786-1371
University of Gothenburg
Source:Eurekalert  

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