Where Happiness Varies: Recalling Adam Smith to Critically Assess the UK Government Project Measuring National Well-Being

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Abstract

This paper provides a constructive critique of the work on the Office for National Statistic's Measuring National Well-being project. Recalling Adam Smith's work on happiness highlights how the work in this project, as well as most of the dominant work in the field remains based on an economic utility model of well-being, failing to distinguish between individual- and aggregate-based levels of analysis and continuing to postulate well-being as a form of utility that essentially is the outcome of market interactions only. Using data from the first wave of Understanding Society, this paper will investigate the appropriateness of the approach empirically. A breakdown of the variation in life-satisfaction shows that ranking a split of the UK into 36 regions has little meaning, as there is hardly any variation of life-satisfaction at the regional level. Using multi-group confirmatory factor analysis (MGCFA), an alternative way of engaging with the cross-regional analysis is presented.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSociological Research Online
Volume19
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2014

Keywords

  • Subjective Well-Being
  • Happiness
  • Measurement
  • Adam Smith
  • Office for National Statistics (ONS)
  • Multi-Group Confirmatory Factor Analysis (MGCFA)

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