Minor: Quality of Life and Happiness Economics

One of the most important yet least understood aspects of life will be explored in this Minor – quality of life and happiness. Insights from academic research will be used to explore how companies, governments, and individuals can improve the happiness, satisfaction, purpose, and health of their employees, citizens, or themselves.

There is a booming interest in improving quality of life and happiness among individuals, organizations, and governments. The interest of individuals is straightforward: virtually everyone wants to live a happy, satisfactory, meaningful, and healthy life. Governments have become interested in quality of life to support their citizens in reaching their well-being goals and because happier citizens are considered to contribute more to society. Companies are increasingly interested in quality of life because happier employees are believed to be more productive and loyal, which may ultimately improve company results. For the above reasons, individuals, governments, and companies want to know: what makes people happy? Do people make optimal choices to achieve their happiness goal? If not, how can people be supported in optimizing their happiness? And, does happiness actually stimulate better societal outcomes and company profits?

The aim of this minor is to provide participants with an overview of research on quality of life, happiness, and health from an interdisciplinary perspective, combining insights from applied economics and other branches of social science (health studies, psychology, sociology, etc.). First, participants will be provided with an overview of research on the measurement, determinants, and benefits of a good life. Second, participants will explore how quality of life is affected by various aspects of society, such as governance and social relationships. Third, participants will study the relationship between quality of life and work and how the concept of quality of life is applied in business. Fourth, the relationship between health and well-being will be studied. Fifth, students will conduct an empirical study on quality of life and happiness economics.

Questions that will be addressed during the course include, but are not limited to:

• What is meant by 'happiness,' 'life satisfaction,' 'quality of life,' and '(subjective) well-being'?
• How can these concepts be measured?
• What makes us happy?
• How does your well-being influence your attitudes, behaviour, and contributions to society?
• How do the operations of firms affect the quality of life of their employees, consumers and the community?
• Should greater happiness be a public policy aim?
• How is quality of life determined in the health field?

Learning objectives

  • Develop an understanding of the determinants and benefits of human happiness and health.
  • Communicate and critically reflect on contemporary theories and empirical research on quality of life and happiness.
  • Develop knowledge and new perspectives on the (potential) role of happiness in organizations and society.
  • Think and act in an academic way on the interface of applied economics and other branches of social science.
  • Conduct an empirical study on quality of life and happiness economics.

Specific characteristics

This Minor is exclusively for Bachelor-3 students from Erasmus University Rotterdam, Leiden University, and TU Delft. Students are expected to have a genuine interest in economic, sociological, psychological, epidemiological, and philosophical approaches to quality of life and happiness economics. Yet, students are NOT expected to have already been introduced to these fields, which means that both students with an economic and non-economic background are welcome. As this minor is delivered in English, a sufficient command of the English language in speech and writing is needed to actively participate in the classes.

There are approximately 4 lectures/seminars a week. The 15 ECTS (12 ECTS) minor expects students to spend some 420 hours (330 hours) for class preparations, class participation and examination.

Overview modules

The minor contains five modules, which will be described below.

Module 1: Introduction to the science of happiness

Content: This module starts with conceptualizing happiness and quality of life. On that basis, we consider various empirical measures of quality of life and happiness. Next, we focus on the role of happiness in people’s choice behavior, followed by an overview of basic (theories on) determinants of happiness. In addition, we will consider why people do not always make happiness optimizing choices and whether organized pursuit of happiness is desirable. Finally, we consider how people’s feelings of happiness affects their behavior and outcomes in other domains.
Teaching method:  Lectures/Seminars
Teaching materials: Scholarly articles and videos
Lecturer: Dr. Martijn Hendriks
Programme offering the module: ESE; Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization (EHERO).

Module 2: Quality of life and society

Content: A good society raises happiness and happiness may foster a better society. This module relates various aspects of society to quality of life, including governance, policy, voting behavior, the living environment, social relationships, migration, education, and inequality. Thereby, we shift the focus from the micro level to the network- and macro level. We explore the relative importance of the various aspects and whether the current state and practices regarding these societal aspects are optimal for achieving the greatest happiness number for the greatest number of people. On this basis, we will jointly develop ideas about how to stimulate a happier and more liveable society.
Teaching method: Lectures/Seminars
Teaching materials: Scholarly articles and videos
Lecturers: Dr. Martijn Burger & Dr. Martijn Hendriks
Programme offering the module: ESE; Applied Economics and Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization (EHERO).

Module 3: Quality of life and Work

Content: To understand the link between quality of life and labor, we start this module with discussing the economic effects of income and (un)employment on happiness. Are people always happier when they earn higher incomes? Are nations as a whole happier when the average income per capita is higher? And do people tend to be more or less satisfied with their lives when unemployment rates are high or when they are/become unemployed? Next, it will be assessed how labor market choices (e.g. the choice to become an entrepreneur or an employee) affect quality of life including life and job satisfaction and health. Attention will be devoted to whether entrepreneurs, while on average earning less than employees, are more or less satisfied with their jobs and lives than non-entrepreneurs. Furthermore, the roles of pecuniary and non-pecuniary job aspects are discussed that determine an individual's job and life satisfaction. We also address whether there is a link between health and one's occupational status: Are entrepreneurs healthier than non-entrepreneurs and why would this be the case? To what extent does health determine labor market choices and to what extent is one's health affected by such choices?
Teaching method: Lectures/Seminars
Teaching materials: Scholarly articles and videos
Lecturers: Drs. Indy Wijngaards & Drs. Efstratia Arampatzi
Programme offering the module: ESE; Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization (EHERO).

Module 4: Quality of life and health

Content: If you ask people in the street what is important for being happy, it is very likely that they will mention health in their top-3 of most important things. But how important is health really for individual wellbeing, and what are the broader societal benefits of improvements in individual health? In this module students will learn -through literature, practical exercises and discussion- about the concepts of health, (health-related) quality of life and wellbeing, how they are related, and how these concepts can be applied for evaluating states or policies, and can be used to support decision-making in the health care sector. Students will learn that different methods exist for measuring and valuing health-related quality of life, and will develop insight in the usefulness of the information these methods generate for different stakeholders in the health care sector. What should be measured? And whose preferences should count when valuing quality of life? These are important questions when it comes to assessing the costs and benefits of treatment options and subsequent patient, clinical and policy decisions about treatments options. Finally, students will learn about individual expectations of quality of life at old age and their relation to lifestyle.
Teaching method: Lectures/Seminars
Teaching materials: Scholarly articles
Lecturer: Prof. Dr. Job van Exel
Programme offering the module: ESE; Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM).

Module 5: Topics in Quality of Life and Happiness Economics

Content: In this module, students work individually on a research project related to one of the topics of the minor. The main focus of this module is to learn how to conduct an empirical study, prepare for the Bachelor’s Thesis, and deepen knowledge on one or multiple specific topics related to quality of life and happiness.
Teaching method: Tutorials
Teaching materials: Assignments
Programme offering the module: ESE; Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization (EHERO): Drs. Emma Pleeging.
Note: Module 5 is not required for ESE students that opt for a 12 ECTS minor.

Coordinator and contact person

Dr. Martijn Hendriks
E: hendriks@ese.eur.nl
T: 010-4089734
Room: M5-39

Website EUR minors

https://www.eur.nl/en/education/minors