24th Economics Symposium
Economics Symposium History

24th Economics Symposium

Gonzaga University School of Business Presents: The 24th Economics Symposium


From Dismal Science to Happy Science:

Economics and Happiness


Justin Wolfers

Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution
Professor of Economics & Professor of Public Policy
University of Michigan

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

McCarthey Athletic Center
Gonzaga University

 *Net proceeds will benefit the endowments, scholarships, and fellowships of the School of Business Administration.

WolfersJustin Wolfers is currently a Senior Fellow of the Brookings Institution, and is on leave from the University of Michigan, where he is a Professor of Economics and a Professor of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. He is also an editor of the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, a Research Associate with the National Bureau of Economic Research; a Research Fellow with the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in Bonn; a Research Affiliate with the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London; an International Research Fellow with the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, and a Fellow of the CESifo, in Munich. He was previously a visiting professor at Princeton, an Associate Professor at Wharton, an Assistant Professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and an economist with the Reserve Bank of Australia.

Dr. Wolfers earned his Ph.D. in economics in 2001 from Harvard University, and was a Fulbright, Knox and Menzies Scholar. He earned his undergraduate degree in Economics in his native Australia at the University of Sydney in 1994, winning the University Medal.

Wolfers' research focuses on labor economics, macroeconomics, political economy, law and economics, social policy and behavioral economics. Beyond research, he is a columnist for Bloomberg View, a sometime blogger for Freakonomics, and a commentator for public radio's Marketplace program. In 2007, NY Times named Wolfers one of the rising stars in economics. Wolfers and partner Betsey Stevenson have been named the power couple in economics. Motoko Rich profiled the star couple in a NY Times story in 2012. Time Magazine listed Wolfers and Stevenson as one of the top Twitter feeds to follow. He is also a popular teacher, with many teaching awards to his name.

At Gonzaga, Wolfers talk entitled, "From Dismal Science to Happy Science: Economics and Happiness" will discuss the link between happiness, economic growth, and inequality.

Economists in recent decades have turned their attention to data that asks people how happy or satisfied they are with their lives. Much of the early research concluded that the role of income in determining well-being was limited, and that only income relative to others was related to well-being. In this paper, we review the evidence to assess the importance of absolute and relative income in determining well-being. Our research suggests that absolute income plays a major role in determining well-being and that national comparisons offer little evidence to support theories of relative income. We find that well-being rises with income, whether we compare people in a single country and year, whether we look across countries, or whether we look at economic growth for a given country. Through these comparisons we show that richer people report higher well-being than poorer people; that people in richer countries, on average, experience greater well-being than people in poorer countries; and that economic growth and growth in well-being are clearly related. Moreover, the data show no evidence for a satiation point above which income and well-being are no longer related.