Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Happiness and Quality of Life
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Handbook of Research Methods and Applications in Happiness and Quality of Life

Edited by Luigino Bruni and Pier Luigi Porta

Offering a thorough assessment of the recent developments in the economic literature on happiness and quality of life, this Handbook astutely considers both methods of estimation and policy application. The expert contributors critically present in-depth research on a wide range of topics including culture and media, inequality, and the relational and emotional side of human life. Accessible and far-reaching, it will prove an invaluable resource for students and scholars of welfare and economics.
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Chapter 20: Relational goods and happiness data

Alessandra Pelloni


A fundamental question for economic analysis is how successful an economy is at delivering welfare for its members. According to virtually all cultural traditions, non-instrumental social relations, which we refer to as relational goods, are indeed necessary for a good life. However, relational goods are quintessentially gratuitous and cannot therefore be exchanged through markets or produced by the State. For these reasons their social value cannot enter GDP calculations and risks being ignored in our public discourse. In the past the quantitative evaluation of the impact of relational goods on welfare was just impossible. This is no longer true thanks to the increasing availability of data on subjective well-being (and on social activities themselves). Findings from these data strongly confirm the importance of social ties for our welfare and urge us to give up the anthropological reductionism still characterizing much of economic research.

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