BHPS-2009 Conference: the 2009 British Household Panel Survey Research Conference, 9-11 July 2009, Colchester, UK
June 1, 2009
The debate surrounding the use of subjective measures of well-being for policy purposes has intensified in recent years. Many social scientists are arguing that the time is right for policymakers to extend their traditional focus on material well-being and economic development to include the impact policies have on how people think and feel about their lives. This has led to numerous studies investigating the impact of economic and social factors on subjective well-being. The advantages of employing well-being measures are numerous. First, they provide a standard measure of effect across policy areas. Second, they represent a complete measure of the effects of policies. Third, they can be used to estimate the monetary value of effects, and thus facilitate cost-benefit analysis. However, the employment of such measures present philosophical, methodological, and logistical challenges. This paper demonstrates the use of well-being measures in economic evaluation by exploring the impact on a persons well-being of engaging in lifelong learning. Based on data from the British Household Panel Survey, the relationships between a number ofmeasures of subjective well-being and lifelong learning are estimated by employing regression methods for longitudinal data. These estimates are then used to estimate the economic value of lifelong learning. The paper explains the approach, summarises the findings of the research, and discusses the challenges in identifying a causal relationship between lifelong learning and wellbeing and in estimating its monetary value.