A new social science field—the study of happiness—is growing up. The results will ultimately transform how governments make decisions. Policymakers may one day use a system of national well-being indicators to track a country’s happiness in the same way we now monitor economic conditions.
The study of happiness lies at the junction between economics and psychology and relies on large survey data sets. In these surveys, random samples of people are quizzed about their mental health and how happy they feel with their lives and other indicators, including their income, job, and marital status. The patterns traced out by these answers allow researchers to study the links between happiness and life events. Psychologists find that happy people are prone to more successful lives—in social relationships, income and work, and health.
On Thursday, June 3, Brookings will convene four prominent scholars to discuss the relevance of their research on happiness to current debates in the fiscal, macroeconomic, social welfare, international economic, and foreign aid arenas. Panelists will offer new perspectives on these issues at a time when both voters and policymakers are debating their options in the coming elections.