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The Old Money-and-Happiness Riddle

Photo: Candie_N

I sat down last week for a good chat with the smart folks who run the Planet Money podcast. The topic: Money and happiness.
You can listen to it, here (fast forward to the 3:34 mark):

I don’t remember saying the following disclaimer, but it sounds right — it’s definitely my voice! — and it’s a useful statement about the role economists play in the well-being literature:

I should absolutely say that I have no idea what makes people happy.  I’m an economist.  I’m no more than that. I’m not going to tell you that you should get married, or that you should attend church, or that you should read more books, or that you should attend the gym more often. Because frankly I don’t know the secret to happiness…
But I may be able to tell your economic policy makers the sorts of policies that are more likely to yield happiness.

Adam Davidson is a terrific interviewer, and did a great job in keeping our twenty-minute conversation lively and fun. And he even managed to get me off talking about data, and asking deeper questions about what these data “mean.” (Reminder: re-read the disclaimer above.)
If you are interested in more, Mike Masnick over at TechDirt did a nice job of summarizing the discussion. And for a somewhat deeper dive, you might be interested in a “wonkast” I did with the good folks at the Center for Global Development.