6 Academy of Management Perspectives E X C H A February N G E International Happiness: A New View on the Measure of Performance by David G....
A New View on the Measure of Performance
by David G. BlanchFower and Andrew J. Oswald
This paper describes the findings from a new, and intrinsically interdisciplinary, literature on happiness and
well-being. The paper focuses on international evidence. We report the patterns in modern data, discuss
what has been persuasively established and what has not, and suggest paths for future research. Looking
ahead, our instinct is that this social science research avenue will gradually merge with a related
literatureâ€”from the medical, epidemiological, and biological sciencesâ€”on biomarkers and health. Nev-
ertheless, we expect that intellectual convergence to happen slowly.
â€œMeasures of both objective and subjective well-being pro-
vide key information about peopleâ€™s quality of life. Statistical
offices should incorporate questions to capture peopleâ€™s life
evaluations, hedonic experiences and priorities.â€
â€”Stiglitz et al. (2009, p. 16)
tandard indices of a countryâ€™s prosperity
as longevity, human height, the incidence of
disease, the suicide rate, and the level of gross
domestic product (GDP)
are well known and
widely collected. Governments throughout the de-
veloped nations, and in many developing nations,
regularly publish such numbers. Yet if they are to do
their job effectively, politicians and policy makers
arguably have to go beyond this. They must under-
stand, and measure, the happiness and mental
health of their countryâ€™s citizens, because it is overall
human well-being (not simply a collection of its
constituent elements) that is of interest.
The last few decades have seen a body of re-
searchers attempt to rise to the difficult challenge of
how to study â€œhappinessâ€ in a systematic, empirical
way. These scholars come from a range of disciplines,
including psychology, economics, epidemiology,
medicine, statistics, sociology, political science, and
management science. Although their methodologi-
cal approaches differ in detail (moreover, researchers
in one discipline are not always good at citing related
work in the journals of the other disciplines, so
different subfields sometimes lay claim to having
discovered results first), a common methodology has
begun to emerge.
This article describes the core findings from the
recent happiness literature.
One approach for a
For suggestions and valuable discussions, we thank Gordon D. A.
Brown, Rafael Di Tella, Amanda Goodall, Robert MacCulloch, Nick
Powdthavee, Eugenio Proto, Daniel Sgroi, and Steve Wu.
Contributions from psychologists, economists, and other investigators
include Easterlin (1974), Clark and Oswald (1994), Diener et al. (1995a,b),
Ng (1997), Oswald (1997), Judge et al (1998), Veenhoven (1999), Argyle
(2001), Di Tella (2001), Radcliff (2001), Frey and Stutzer (2002), Easterlin
(2003), Huppert and Whittington (2003), Wolfers (2003), Blanchflower
and Oswald (2004, 2008a), Kahneman et al. (2004), Van Praag and
Ferrer-I-Carbonell (2004), Graham (2005), Luttmer (2005), Steptoe,
Wardle, and Marmot (2005), Gilbert (2006), Welsch (2006), Grant, Chris-
tianson, and Price (2007), Dolan, Peasgood, and White (2008), Napier and
Jost (2008), Powdthavee (2008), Stevenson and Wolfers (2008), Graham
(2009), Daly and Wilson (2009), Devoe and Pfeffer (2009), Luechinger
(2009), Daly et al. (2010), Judge, Ilies, and Dimotakis (2010), Pittau, Zelli,
and Gelman (2010), Powdthavee (2010), Pfeffer (2010), Stone et al.
(2010), Bell and Blanchflower (2010), and Oswald and Wu (in press). A
historianâ€™s perspective is provided by Offer (2006).
David G. Blanchfower
([emailÂ protected]) is the Bruce V. Rauner ProFessor oF Economics at Dartmouth College.
Andrew J. Oswald
([emailÂ protected]) is Dean For Research in the Warwick Business School at the University oF Warwick.
Academy of Management
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