Are you happy? US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke wants to know

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Bernanke  Alex Brandon
Alex Brandon
Bernanke

WASHINGTON — Ben Bernanke wants to know if you are happy.

The Federal Reserve chairman said Monday that gauging happiness can be as important for measuring economic progress as determining whether inflation is low or unemployment high. Economics isn’t just about money and material benefits, he said. It is also about understanding and promoting “the enhancement of well-being.”

Bernanke and Fed policymakers rely on reports on hiring, consumer spending and other economic data when making high-stakes decisions about the $15 trillion U.S. economy. The Fed’s dual mandate is to maintain low inflation and full employment.

“We should seek better and more-direct measurements of economic well-being,” Bernanke said Monday in a videotaped speech shown to a conference of economists and statisticians in Cambridge, Mass. After all, promoting well-being is “the ultimate objective of our policy decisions.”

Bernanke acknowledged that many people aren’t too happy right now. Unemployment rose in July to 8.3 percent, and economic growth has slowed sharply from the start of the year. He called the recovery “frustratingly slow” when he testified to Congress on July 17.

Aggregate statistics can mask important information about how individual Americans are faring, Bernanke says.

His speech Monday was the latest foray into a relatively new specialty in economics known as “happiness studies.” Bernanke attracted widespread notice when he spoke about the economics of happiness in a May 2010 commencement address at the University of South Carolina.

In that speech, he said research has found that once basic material needs are met, more wealth doesn’t necessarily make people happier.

“Or, as your parents always said, money doesn’t buy happiness,” Bernanke said then. “Well, an economist might reply, at least not by itself.”

In his remarks Monday, Ber­nanke turned to the more practical – and difficult – task of measuring a subjective emotion. So far, most efforts have involved surveys in which people are asked about whether they are happy and what contributes to their happiness.

Those surveys have found some consistent answers: physical and mental health, the strength of family and community ties, a sense of control over one’s life and opportunities for leisure activity.

The Kingdom of Bhutan has been tracking happiness for four decades. The tiny Himalayan na­tion stopped tracking gross national product in 1972 and instead switched to measuring Gross National Happiness.

Bernanke on Monday sketched out a few other questions he would like to know: How secure do Americans feel in their jobs? How confident are Americans in their future job prospects? How prepared are families for financial shocks?

These indicators “could be useful in measuring economic progress or setbacks as well as in explaining economic decision-making,” he said.

It’s safe to say that Bernanke wouldn’t expect a great deal of optimism if those questions were asked now.

The Fed has said it plans to keep its key short-term interest rate near zero until late 2014, an indication that it expects the economy to stay weak. And Fed policymakers appeared to signal after its two-day meeting last week a growing inclination to take further steps to lift the economy out of its slump.

Bernanke’s definition of happiness might baffle some. He called it a “short-term state of awareness that depends on a person’s perceptions of one’s immediate reality, as well as on immediate external circumstances and outcomes.”

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seenitB4
84366
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seenitB4 08/07/12 - 04:18 am
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Really

In that speech, he said research has found that once basic material needs are met, more wealth doesn’t necessarily make people happier.

Even lotto winners find this to be true.....some say it was a disaster in their life....weeeel we need to find out WHAT does & get a bunch of it....studies are in progress...:)

omnomnom
3964
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omnomnom 08/07/12 - 10:59 am
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Ben Bernanke is a true

Ben Bernanke is a true Augustan. He's ruining the savings of everyone by keeping the interest rates artificially low and he's set to roll out Quantitative Easing... PART 3 within the next 6 months which will decrease the purchasing power of every single dollar. Ya'll know how the rhetoric from the 90's said "your children and your grandchildren will be paying the price of the deficit" "we are mortgaging our country's future" well the future is NOW.

Willow Bailey
20580
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Willow Bailey 08/07/12 - 11:21 am
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This is insanity. We robbed

This is insanity. We robbed you, but aren't you happier now?
Socialism has ceased knocking and has entered our doors.

dichotomy
31692
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dichotomy 08/08/12 - 01:44 pm
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Well NO I'm not happy.

Well NO I'm not happy. Bernake has printed worthless currency, lowered the value of the dollars I have saved, and he has manipulated interest rates so that the money I have saved does not earn any interest from the banks. Meanwhile they continue to ignore the inflation that is skyrocketing the price of food, fuel, electricity, and medical care because they are not included in the "market basket" they use to calculate inflation. NO Mr. Bernake, I am not happy.

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