Happiness and social policy: barking up the right tree in the wrong neck of the woods

Tania Burchardt

in Social Policy Review 18

Published by Policy Press

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9781861348449
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447303459 | DOI:
Happiness and social policy: barking up the right tree in the wrong neck of the woods

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This chapter asks whether happiness is a useful way to conceptualise well-being, and whether its promotion is an appropriate goal for social policy. It draws on a review of literature from a number of disciplines. It introduces the ‘economics of happiness’ and describes indicators commonly used to measure subjective well-being (SWB) and their policy implications, suggesting that policy should re-examine some areas or topics that have traditionally been given little attention. It reflects on the evidence and concludes that promoting SWB or happiness as an explicit policy objective would be mistaken. It argues that happiness as a policy goal is probably inadequate if consideration is given to how opportunities or resources should be distributed in society, particularly if the concern is to examine the role of policy in addressing various forms of inequality.

Keywords: happiness; social policy; economics of happiness; subjective well-being; inequality

Chapter.  7656 words. 

Subjects: Social Research and Statistics

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