Funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a panel of experts in psychology and economics, including Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, began convening in December to try to define reliable measures of “subjective well-being.” If successful, these could become official statistics.
Alan Krueger, Angus Deaton and Justin Wolfers have cameos in the article.
In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron has embraced the idea, and last year the government began asking survey respondents things like “Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?” and “Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?” The U.K. Economic and Social Research Council is also funding the U.S. panel’s $370,000 budget. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008 launched a commission including two Nobel winners, Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, which opined that the “time is ripe for our measurement system to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people’s well-being.”
Far ahead in such measures, however, is the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which has embraced the notion of “Gross National Happiness” as a national goal and has created a commission to achieve it.