Do Happy People Attend Happiness Conferences?

My happiness workshop yesterday certainly raised my life satisfaction – and hopefully that of the attendees as well. If you missed it, the papers of Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers are available on their websites. Paul Frijters’ paper should soon be on his site. ABC Fora filmed the workshop for their Big Ideas series, so selected excerpts will air on ABC1 early next year, at which point they’ll also post the full video on their website (I’ll link to it then).

I couldn’t resist running a small survey of attendees at the conference, asking the same 0 to 10 life satisfaction that appears in the 2007 HILDA survey, plus two simple demographics: gender and occupation (economist/non-economist).


The headline finding is that those who attend a happiness conference (mean=7.7) are a smidgin less happy than the typical Australian (mean=7.9). If you want to be happy, don’t delve into happiness research…

It also appears that among attendees, economists (mean=7.8) are happier than non-economists (mean=7.6). (So much for the ‘dismal science’?) The economists’ answers were also markedly more dispersed – perhaps my colleagues trying to give me some extra variation.

And among attendees to my conference, there was no difference in average happiness between men and women (both means=7.7).

This contrasts with HILDA data, which has consistently found Australian women to be happier than Australian men.

Feel free to email me if you’d like to play around with the data.

Update: Peter Martin reports on Paul Frijters’ paper.