Stated preferences

I just finished the first happiness tracking cycle and they‘ve sent me my Happiness Report. There’s some unsurprising things like I’m happier on the weekends and when I’m doing stuff I want to do. The surprises:

  • I’m happier when I’m interacting with more than one person
  • There’s no relationship between the quality of sleep and happiness, but there is a pretty strong relationship between the length of sleep and happiness
  • While my level of focus has no relationship to happiness, there’s a U-shaped relationship between how productive I’m being and happiness

I’m not sure how to explain that last one. Perhaps I mark middling productivity when I really want to get work done, or when some potential leisure activity is distracting me from my work. But this would suggest “focus” should have a similar relationship with happiness. I’m not sure what productivity is net of focus.

Here’s my happiness by activity:
My happiness by activity
A vast majority of the mass is in the middle groups: “home computer” and “working”. Also, most of these activities probably generate a level of happiness, but I suspect the causation works the other way on “listening to music”. This makes me think the real problem with happiness research in the context of economic analysis is not the revealed preference critique. This stuff might also get the outcomes and behaviors mixed.

Another thought: there may be a finance twist to happiness correlations. Controlling for the level, folks with more swings in utility generating behavior (call it “consumption”) will, on average, have higher marginal utility, i.e. they’ll be less happy on average. With standard arguments from finance, they would be willing to pay more for “investments” that have payoffs which are positively correlated with marginal utility like listening to music and having children.

UPDATE: Some potentially testable hypotheses (assuming happiness panel data exists): do people that have/ have more children have higher variance in happiness? Controlling for income, do people in richer societies have higher variance of happiness?

4 thoughts on “Stated preferences”

  1. Ah, but if agents are forward-looking, then their happiness should depend on what they’re going to be doing in the future!

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