Quality of Life and Happiness Economics

THE INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDY OF WEALTH, HEALTH AND WELL-BEING

Name minor:

Quality of Life and Happiness Economics

Code:

FEB53113 and FEB53113M

Teaching language:

English

Programme which has the coordinating role for this minor:

Erasmus School of Economics (ESE)

Other programmes which are contributing to the minor:

Not applicable                                                         

Toegang/ Access:

See admissions matrix

Content

There is a booming interest among individuals, organizations, and governments surrounding quality of life and happiness. The interest of individuals is straightforward: virtually everyone wants to live a happy, satisfactory, meaningful, and healthy life. For instance, people mostly value having an interesting job, a high income, and a thriving economy because they expect that this will eventually lead to a happier 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 favourable societal outcomes. Private and public organizations are increasingly interested in quality of life because happier employees are believed to be more productive and loyal, which may ultimately stimulate better company results. Examples of innovative companies that significantly invest in the quality of life of their employees are Google and Facebook. Many companies have also started to recognize that "happiness sells," as people often choose the option that they believe will make them happiest. Just think of the "Share your happiness" advertisements of Coca Cola and Ola's "happiness stations". 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? To answer these questions, many governments and organizations have started to measure the happiness of its citizens and employees/customers, respectively.

Following the growing interest in happiness, the field of "happiness economics" quicky developed. This emerging subfield of economics is based on the idea that happiness is closely related to utility and is a valuable mechanism toward achieving better objective outcomes, such as greater productivity and income. In psychology, the field of "positive psychology" has been established, which heavily draws on quality of life studies. This field argues that we should not only be focusing on reducing our misery (e.g., depression, suicide, etc.), but we should also reinforce the experience of positive emotions, such as joy, hope, and contentment. In the health sciences, a patient's quality of life assessment has become an important outcome measure in determining the individual's overall health.

In light of these developments, one of the most important yet least understood aspects of life will be explored in this Minor – quality of life and happiness. The aim of this course is to provide participants with an overview of research on the quality of life, happiness, and life satisfaction of individuals and nations from an interdisciplinary perspective, combining insights from economics, the social sciences (psychology, sociology), health sciences, and moral philosophy. First, participants will be provided with an overview of research on the measurement, determinants, and consequences of a good life. Second, participants will delve into studies focused on the intersection of economics and quality of life by studying the relationship between labor and quality of life and how the concept of quality of life is applied in business. Third, participants will explore the relation between quality of life and various aspects of society including governance, migration, and the living environment. Fourth, the relationship between health and well-being will be studied. Fifth, students will conduct an empirical study in which they combine research methods with theories on quality of life and happiness economics.

Questions that will be addressed during the course are, but 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?
• What are the benefits of feeling happy and being satisfied with life?
• How and to what extent 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

  • Communicate on theories and empirical research on quality of life and happiness economics;
  • Think and act in an academic way on the interface of economics, social science, health science, and philosophy;
  • Conduct an empirical study on quality of life and happiness economics.

Specific characteristics

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 very welcome. As this minor is delivered in English command of the English language in speech and writing should be sufficient to actively participate in the classes.

Organisation

Maximum number of students that can participate in the minor: 100
Minimum number of students that can participate in the minor: 15

There are approximately 4 lectures/seminars a week. All classes are two times 45 minutes and require active preparation and class participation. The 15 ECTS (12 ECTS) minor expects you to spend some 420 hours (330 hours) for class preparations, class participation and examination.

Overview modules

Module 1: Quality of Life and the Science of Happiness (3 ECTS)
Module 2: Quality of Life and Society (3 ECTS)
Module 3: Quality of Life and Labor (3 ECTS)
Module 4: Quality of Life and Health (3 ECTS)
Module 5: Topics in Quality of Life and Happiness Economics (3 ECTS)

ESE students that opt for a 12 ECTS minor are required to complete four of the five Modules and can opt out from either Module 2, 3, 4, or 5.

Module 1: Quality of life and the science of happiness

 • Content: 'Quality of life' is an umbrella term used for different notions of a good life. This module starts with an overview of meanings in economics, the social sciences, heath sciences, and moral philosophy. On that basis we consider several empirical measures of quality of life; what do these really tap and can the various qualities be meaningful combined in one index? Next we focus on one quality of life in particular, that is, the subjective appreciation of one's life as a whole, shortly called 'happiness'. We consider the available research findings on both determinants and consequences of happiness. On that basis we consider how greater happiness for a greater number of people can be achieved and whether organized pursuit of happiness is desirable.
Teaching method: Lectures/Seminars.
Teaching materials: Reader: the scholarly articles can be downloaded through the university library or will be handed out in class.
Programme offering the module: ESE; Applied Economics and Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization (EHERO): Prof. dr. Ruut Veenhoven, Drs. Martijn Hendriks.

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 but not limited to 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 (1) the relative importance of the various aspects, (2) whether the current state and practices regarding these societal aspects are optimal for achieving the greatest happiness number for the greatest number of people, (3) and we will jointly develop ideas about how to stimulate a happier society.
• Teaching method: Lectures/Seminars.
• Teaching materials: Reader: the scholarly articles can be downloaded through the university library or will be handed out in class.
 Programme offering the module: ESE; Applied Economics and Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization (EHERO): Dr. Martijn Burger & Drs. Martijn Hendriks.

Module 3: Quality of life and labor

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: Reader: the scholarly articles can be downloaded through the university library or will be handed out in class.
Programme offering the module: ESE; Applied Economics and Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization (EHERO): Dr. Peter van der Zwan.

 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: Reader: the scholarly articles can be downloaded through the university library or will be handed out in class.
Programme offering the module: ESE; Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management (ESHPM): Dr. Job van Exel, Drs. Mariska Hackert, Drs. Willem van der Deijl.

Module 5: Topics in Quality of Life and Happiness Economics

Content: In this module, students work in a team 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 or literature study and to prepare for the Bachelor's Thesis.
Teaching method: Individual Tuition
Teaching materials: Reader: the scholarly articles can be downloaded through the university library or will be handed out in class.
Programme offering the module: ESE; Applied Economics and Erasmus Happiness Economics Research Organization (EHERO): Drs. Martijn Hendriks.

Examination

Module 1-5 have a separate take-home exam or assignment. The final grade of the minor is the weighted average of the four or five modules. An average grade of 5.5 is sufficient to pass the minor.

Method of examination

Module 1 “Quality of Life and the Science of Happiness”:
Take-Home Exam

Module 2 “Quality of Life and Society”:
Individual Assignment

Module 3 “Quality of Life and Labor”:
Take-Home Exam

Module 4 “Quality of Life and Health”:
Written Exam  

Module 5 “Topics in Quality of Life and Happiness Economics:
Group Project (Group Presentation & Group Assignment)

Feedback
Feedback is on demand. Students make an appointment with the lecturer.

Contact information

Contact person

Name: Drs. Martijn Hendriks
E-mail: hendriks@ese.eur.nl
Phone number: 010-4089734
Room: M5-39

Faculty website

http://www.eur.nl/ese/students/minor