ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Subjective Well-being in India

Subjective well-being is now an important area of research. We carried out the first all-India analysis of swb focused on economic well-being based on the only all-India panel survey that covers 2005 and 2012. While economic factors such as affluence and employment are important covariates, age, gender, health, caste, and schooling are other important covariates. Existing policies fail to provide adequate protection to old people living with non-communicable diseases and disabilities. An important challenge going forward is strengthening policies that will enable healthy ageing.


The authors are grateful to Raj Bhatia, Katsushi Imai, N Chandramohan, and Radhika Aggarwal for their valuable advice. Any errors are the responsibility of the authors.

Well-being is hard to define and harder to measure. This, however, has not deterred economists and other social scientists from studying it. Leading scholars have studied subjective well-being (SWB) to make important contributions to measuring well-being and elaborating on its policy importance.

SWB measures that seek to quantify overall life satisfaction are controversial. Ravallion et al (2016), for example, are sceptical but not dismissive of such measures. Their scepticism can be attributed to scale heterogeneity—that is, heterogeneity in responses concerning discrete choices across individuals. As scale heterogeneity is a limited concern, subjective measures of poverty are not just similar to those obtained from income/expenditure thresholds, but they are sometimes unavoidable when detailed income/expenditure data are not available.1 Deaton (2018), however, uses cross-country and country-specific comparisons to validate measures of SWB. Self-reported well-being measures do not need to relate to behaviour. If decision utility differs from welfare utility, and if people sometimes behave against their best interests, direct measurement of well-being might still give accurate results. Further, people might even be enabled to do better, either through benevolent government policies or incentives, but more simply by providing information on the circumstances and choices that promote well-being.

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Updated On : 30th May, 2021
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