DC street scene showing the Capital Building and commuters
Commuters on street
Guide Voice: Commuters on
the streets of Washington DC, on their way to the office. Are they
happy in their work and how important is wage satisfaction to this
happiness? In other words, what makes people happy?
1) A sunny day. A pretty woman. A smile.
2) Having some free time and having a job that is rewarding.
I think the first thing I think about is my marriage to my wife.
She makes me happy and I love my job.
at Bank of America Cash Machines
Guide Voice: In a modern,
consumer society, can money buy happiness?
1) Happiness comes from your family, you know your wife,
girlfriend. You can buy toys with money, you can't buy
2) Money can't buy you friends, money can't buy you - you know it
can buy you some things but it certainly can't
you the things that are really important in life.
walking in street
- Brookings Institution
in conference room
Guide Voice: Research by
economists at the UK's University of Warwick, into the interplay of
money and happiness shows that, while money matters, 'Rank', your
position in the pay hierarchy, is more significant when it comes to
happiness at work.
Now a conference at the Brookings
Institution in Washington, co-presented by the University of
Warwick under the title "Why Inequality Matters: Lessons for
Policy from the Economics of Happiness" brings together the
World's experts in economic research to discuss happiness and its
potential influence on economic policy.
01:25 SOT: Andrew Oswald -
"The economics of happiness is an incredibly interesting
research area, and partly we don't know how the results are going
to be used. But politicians all around the world are getting
interested and I think that this area of study could tell us how to
design social policy and economic policy to make people happier,
possibly to reduce inequality as well, if it's decided by
politicians from this research perhaps that inequality's over all a
delegate reading brochure
Guide Voice: So, what is
01:56 SOT: Carol Graham -
"Well happiness in theory is what economics is all about.
If you go back to the work of Bentham and others it was about the
pursuit of happiness. And then as the profession became more
rigorous and more quantitative for reasons of analysis, economists
began to define utility as sort of a substitute for happiness. In
other words you measured people's utility. The other thing is that
happiness is an expressed preference. Economists work very much
with what they call expressed preferences, which is what people buy
or what people select. And economists have traditionally shied away
from survey data that asks people what they think or what they
prefer because it's very subjective. And happiness is indeed a
subjective context because it is vague. It means different things
to different people".
02:58 SOT: Andrew Oswald -
"What could be more important than human happiness?
Economists for years and years have studied income, lots of what
you might call proxy measures for human well-being, but really what
people care about is true happiness, it's fulfilment. It's not
money itself, it's not things themselves, it is psychological
well-being. It is happiness."
commuter on mobile phone
man searching in bin
man on park bench
Guide Voice: Surveys of
employees' wage satisfaction ratings, show that people feel
relatively deprived and less content when their wage is less than
that of those they compare themselves with, and more satisfied when
their wage is relatively higher. It is this issue of inequality
that lies at the heart of work related happiness rather than actual
03:44 SOT: Andrew Oswald -
"We know that inequality in countries like Britain and the
US has gone up enormously and we're trying to work out what the
true effects of inequality are on people. The research evidence
coming out of this conference is that inequality is bad in the
sense that it lowers average happiness. Now it may have some
beneficial effect, it may sharpen incentives in society, it may
make us more productive. But certainly the evidence appears to be
that inequality is harmful to human beings".