Handbook on the Economics of Happiness
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Handbook on the Economics of Happiness

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta

This book is a welcome consolidation and extension of the recent expanding debates on happiness and economics. Happiness and economics, as a new field for research, is now of pivotal interest particularly to welfare economists and psychologists. This Handbook provides an unprecedented forum for discussion of the economic issues relating to happiness. It reviews the more recent literature and offers the interested reader an insight into the vast scope of the field in terms of the theory, its applications and also experimental design. The Handbook also gives substantial indications as to the future direction of research in the field, with particular regard to policy applications and developing an economics of interpersonal relations which includes reciprocity and social interaction theory.
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Chapter 21: Happiness and the Standard of Living: The Case of South Africa

Nattavudh Powdthavee


Nattavudh Powdthavee* 1. Introduction An advert for Oxfam1 appeals asks people in the UK, ‘What do we dream for our children?’. If we were then to stop and think about the question for a minute, most of us would probably respond with success and health. However, according to Oxfam, a more natural response would have been happiness – or more simply, a ‘good life’ – for our children. The question then is what constitutes happiness? A review of research on well-being by Wilson (1967: p. 294) suggests that happiness comes from being young, healthy, welleducated, well-paid, religious, married with high self-esteem and job morale, modest aspirations, of either sex and of a wide range of intelligence. Oxfam, on the other hand, mentions none of the above in their list of possible answers. Rather, the things that constitute a good life for our children – at least in the developing countries that would receive aid – are more likely to be food, drinking water, and a shelter that they could call home. The significant difference in the possible replies to Oxfam’s happiness question, though it may seem predictable to many, raises some very important questions. If individuals’ perception of what makes a good life depends crucially on how the normative framework for evaluation is formed, can we still then be reasonably satisfied with the conclusion that being married and young, highly paid with low aspirations, healthy and well-educated are all it takes to be global requirements for human happiness and well-being...

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