Can Marginal Rates of Substitution Be Inferred from Happiness Data? Evidence from Residency Choices
We survey 561 students from U.S. medical schools shortly after they submit their choice rankings over residencies to the National Resident Matching Program. We elicit (a) these choice rankings, (b) anticipated subjective well-being (SWB) rankings, and (c) expected features of the residencies (such as prestige). We find substantial differences between choice and anticipated-SWB rankings in the implied tradeoffs between the residency features. In our data, evaluative SWB measures (life satisfaction and Cantril’s ladder) imply tradeoffs closer to choice than does affective happiness, and as close as do multi-question SWB indices. We discuss implications for using SWB data in applied work.
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This paper was revised on May 29, 2013