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Social Preferences, Well-Being and Policy

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - SOWELL (Social Preferences, Well-Being and Policy)

Reporting period: 2018-10-01 to 2020-03-31

My SOWELL projects intends to push forward the research on the theory and empirics of social preferences and well-being. The project is made up of three main parts: 1) Develop New Behavioral Measures and Analysis of Social Preferences and Well-Being, 2) Analyze the foundations of Social Preferences and Well-Being, 3) Identify policies that develop pro-social behaviors and well-being.

Part 1 – Big Data: New Behavioral Measures and Analysis of Social Preferences and Well-Being

The first part of SOWELL will develop new theoretical and empirical foundations of well-being by using large-scale behavioral measures made possible by the Big Data revolution. This approach has much to offer when it comes to expanding our understanding of social preferences and well-being: we can elicit people’s behavior by looking at their queries, and by running large-scale online behavioral surveys; we can monitor social and economic attitudes in continuous time, at a very detailed geographic level and with very large samples. We can also export experimental economics into the field with « online laboratory », e.g by running online social behavioral surveys on large-scale representative samples within societies and organizations to understand the impact of pro-social preferences in real-world orgaizations.

Part 2 – Foundations of Social Preferences and Well-Being

The second part of SOWELL exploits these large-scale behavioral measures of social preferences and well-being in order to understand their foundations. Why do social preferences vary so widely from one place to the other, and from one person to the next? How do these social preferences relate to other cognitive and social skills, and to emotional well-being? What is the role of individual life experience versus social norms and inequalities in shaping social preferences? I have written three articles on these subjects:

Part 3 – New paradigms to evaluate the effect of policies

The last part of SOWELL proposes a new paradigm for evaluating policies based on their quali/quantitative effects on social preferences and well-being. The aim is to go beyond traditional economic indicators. If social preferences and well-being are assigned high value for human development, it becomes urgent to identify the policies that foster them, and to employ appropriate indicators to capture their effects on social cooperation and happiness.

SOWELL has also created a website for the promotion of its research. Publications and description of the project are available there.
I detail below the main achievements related to the three parts of the SOWELL project.

Part 1 – Big Data: New Behavioral Measures and Analysis of Social Preferences and Well-Being

1.1 Big Data and Well-Being

We have made significant progress on this part. Some of the contributions have already been the subject of articles.

[1] “Well-Being through the Lens of the Internet”

Objective, Method, and Results
We build models to estimate well-being in the United States based on changes in the volume of Internet searches for different words, obtained from the Google Trends website. The estimated well-being series are weighted combinations of word groups that are endogenously identified to fit the weekly subjective well-being measures collected by Gallup Analytics for the United States or the biannual measures for the 50 states. Our approach combines theoretical underpinnings and statistical analysis, and the model we construct successfully estimates the out-of-sample evolution of most subjective well-being measures at a one-year horizon. Our analysis suggests that internet search data can be a complement to traditional survey data to measure and analyze the well-being of a population at high frequency and local geographic levels. We highlight some factors that are important for well-being, as we find that Internet searches associated with job search, civic participation, and healthy habits consistently predict well-being across several models, datasets and use cases during the period studied.

The paper has been submitted in Nature Human Behavior in 2017 and has received a Revise and Resubmit.

1.2 Online Laboratory and Behavioral Social Barometers

I have launched an Online Experimental Laboratory, in cooperation with the Medialab at Sciences Po and the OECD. We have proposed new measures of trust and cooperation by creating an online Trustlab on a large-scale representative sample of the French population. We have then extended this Trustlab with the OECD to run this methodology with already five other countries. We are now coordinating a large international cooperation to cover all OECD and non-OECD countries.

[2] “Trust and its Determinants: Evidence from the Trustlab Experiment”
With Fabrice Murtin, Louis Putterman, and Gianluca Grimalda

Objective, Method, and Results
This paper describes the results of an international survey on trust run in six OECD countries between November 2016 and November 2017 (France, Germany, Italy, Korea, Slovenia and the United States). Cutting-edge inference techniques drawn from behavioral science and experimental economics are combined with an extensive survey on the policy and contextual determinants of trust in others and trust in institutions. Overall, Trustlab confers some experimental validity to self-reported measures of trust in others and trust in institutions, and highlights the large scope for improving trust via policy action: 1) Self-reported measures of trust in institutions are validated experimentally, 2) Self-reported measures of trust in others capture a belief about trustworthiness (as well as altruistic preferences), whereas experimental measures also capture willingness to cooperate. Therefore, both measures are related, but should be considered rather complementary; 3) Perceptions of institutional performance strongly correlate with both trust in government and trust in others; 4) Perceived government integrity is the strongest determinant of trust in government; 5) In addition to perceived quality of institutions, social preferences and expectations, along with social capital associated activities such as neighborhood connectedness and volunteering matter for trust in others; 6) Just to highlight the scope for policy action, an increase in all significant determinants of trust in government by one standard deviation may be conducive to an increase in trust by 30 to 60%.

Article to be submitted to the American Economic R
Until the end period, I plan to push forward the research agenda on the three parts of the ERC. While I have already achieved most of the projects described in Part 1 and Part 2 of my ERC proposal, I still have to achieve large-scale randomized experiments to evaluate the impact of education policy on well-being and trust.

Part 1 – Big Data: New Behavioral Measures and Analysis of Social Preferences and Well-Being

In accordance with the initial ERC proposal, I will exploit the development of the Trustlab on representative samples to test the various theories about the prevalence and salience of preferences, distinguishing among self-regarding preferences, altruism (Andreoni, 1989), reciprocity motives (Dufwenberg and Kirchsteiger, 2004) and social image (Benabou and Tirole, 2006). It will be the first test in a comprehensive framework of the distribution of preferences in a real-world population.

Part 2 – Foundations of Social Preferences and Well-Being

In accordance with the initial ERC proposal, the last step of this part will consist in estimating the causal impact of inequalities on cooperation. I will exploit the Trustlab experiment on representative samples to understand the role of social norms and inequalities on cooperation and social preferences in a relevant real-world context. For this purpose, I will exploit the panel structure of the ELIPSS/CEVIPOF panel in the French context by introducing two waves of experiments. In the second wave, I will inform the participants about the unconditional average contribution, and the average contribution conditional on demographics, from the representative sample studied in the first wave. This approach will provide a unique capacity to find out how information about the real-word average behavior of others affects people’s behavior, and to identify the reference groups whose behavior affects conditional co-operation in the society.

Part 3 – New paradigms to evaluate the effect of policies

This last part is the one that includes most of the on-going projects. According to the initial proposal, I need to achieve the following experiments:

- Social Mediation to Prevent School Violence

One key policy to develop social skills at school is to fight bullying through mediation. But what characteristics should a school mediator have and what subgroup of students should be treated to maximize the effects of a mediation intervention? Previous research has failed to analyze the intrinsic characteristics of anti-bullying interventions and link these with the success or failure of such programs. The large variability of anti-bullying programs harms the comparability of papers found in literature, mainly based on non-experimental analysis. My project relies on a randomized controlled experiment that consisted of approximately 10,000 students to analyze the effects of a mediation intervention, but also to examine the characteristics of the treated students and the mediators to conclude which of these caused a positive difference in the effect of the intervention. The preliminary results confirm that male students in 6th grade, which were the subgroup with the largest index of bullying, experienced the biggest effect by the treatment. The results also revealed that agreeableness of the mediator had a significant effect on the impact of the intervention. Most students in our sample have now reached Grade 9, where they go through a national standardized exam and have to choose among different academic tracks. With the support of the French Ministry of Education, we will match at the individual level the treated and control group with their exam results and track choices. This will allow us to analyze the potential boost in cognitive skills in the long term, as well as well-being, mediated by social skills.

- “Energie Jeunes” Program

This research focuses on the role of self-discipline, perseverance and motivation in reducing school dropouts in Franc
Big data
Big Data, be happy