Why Americans are unhappier than ever – and how to fix it – George Ward

George Ward, MIT Sloan PhD student

From The Conversation

March 20 is International Day of Happiness and, as they’ve done every year, the United Nations has published the World Happiness Report. The U.S. ranks 18th among the world’s countries, with an average life satisfaction of around 6.88 on a scale of 10.

While that may be relatively near the top, America’s happiness figures have actually declined every year since the reports began in 2012, and this year’s are the lowest yet. The question, then, is whether the government has a role to play in improving the happiness of its citizens. And if so, how might policymakers go about it?

Fortunately, a growing body of work by economists and psychologists can give governments access to the kind of data that can inform the way they think about policy and happiness.

In our new book, “The Origins of Happiness: The Science of Well-Being Over the Life Course,” my colleagues and I provide a systematic account of what makes for a satisfying life.

The role of government

The idea that government ought to focus attention on the well-being of its citizens goes back centuries. Thomas Jefferson himself said, “The care of human life and happiness … is the only legitimate object of good government.”

Historically, this has meant increasing economic productivity and growth to increase personal happiness. But as the data suggest, and many countries are beginning to realize, this isn’t likely to be sufficient. As a result, many governments around the world are now taking steps to broaden their policy goals beyond GDP. Read More »

Evan Apfelbaum: The risks of ignoring race in the workplace

From CNN Opinion

Larry, one of the employees you supervise, hasn’t been performing his job up to expectations. But you’ve been reluctant to take him aside and speak with him candidly: Like most senior people in the company, you are white. What if Larry, who is black, takes your criticism the wrong way or, worse, thinks you are racist?

The last thing you want is for others to think your actions were influenced by race. So you’ve held off talking to him about performance issues that you’d likely have raised with your non-minority employees. You’re relieved that a potentially thorny situation was averted, even pleased with your capacity to be so racially sensitive.

Read More »

Who says "I love you" first and why?

MIT Sloan Asst. Prof. Joshua Ackerman

Generally speaking, most people feel happy when they hear “I love you” from their romantic partners. But our research shows there is a discrepancy in how men and women react to those words depending on whether or not they’ve had sex. In our studies, if a couple had not yet had sex, men tended to respond more positively to hearing “I love you” than women because they heard it as a indication that sex was going to happen. Once the couple has had sex, though, it’s women who experience elevated happiness upon hearing “I love you” because they take the confession to mean that their partner is committed to them.

But we also found that not everyone is the same when it comes to this: there are some men who experience less happiness when they hear “I love you” after sex has occurred.

Read More »