Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Miles Kimball talks about the economics of happiness

I just got back from hearing an economist, Miles Kimball, talk about happiness and economics. It was interesting to hear happiness talked about based on what research has shown, not just on what people theorize about what ought to bring happiness.

Figuring out just what makes people happy is a bit more complicated that I originally thought.

Just because people are better off financially doesn’t mean that they will become happier people. One study showed that while, overall, income levels have been going up, people aren’t reporting that they are getting happier at the same rate.

Dr. Kimball also said, however, that there are correlations between happiness and income levels.

“Basically money does by happiness consistently,” he said the research shows. “To be clear, it doesn’t buy a lot of happiness.”

If I understood him right, he said that there are trends that show that those who are making more money report they do feel happier, while people with less money, over time, are reporting that they are less happy.

And not everyone is motivated by a desire to be happier. Sometimes they are willing to sacrifice things like sleep and family time to achieve greater social rank or more money.

Dr. Kimball, who is the Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Visiting Professor, has come here from the University of Michigan where he is a professor of economics. Today he spoke to a nearly packed room on the ninth floor of the George S. Eccles Business Building.

Some of his findings probably won’t surprise you. For an example, he cited research that shows that getting enough sleep, exercise and eating well can make you happier. So can spending time with friends and getting involved with an engrossing hobby. Having a positive attitude, being grateful and forgiving can also make you happier.

He covered a lot of ground and shared some fascinating research. If you are interested in an audio recording of what he said, send me an e-mail at

Steve Eaton

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