NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Can Marginal Rates of Substitution Be Inferred from Happiness Data? Evidence from Residency Choices

Daniel J. Benjamin, Ori Heffetz, Miles S. Kimball, Alex Rees-Jones

NBER Working Paper No. 18927
Issued in March 2013
NBER Program(s):   AG   LS   PE

We survey 561 students from U.S. medical schools shortly after they submit 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 residency features. In our data, evaluative SWB measures (life satisfaction and Cantril's ladder) imply tradeoffs closer to choice than does affective happiness (even time-integrated), and as close as do multi-measure SWB indices. We discuss implications for using SWB data in applied work.

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A data appendix is available at http://www.nber.org/data-appendix/w18927

This paper was revised on February 28, 2014

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18927

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