PP424      Half Unit
Happiness and Public Policy

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Lectures will be delivered by Prof Richard Layard. Advice on teaching and content from Dr Christian Krekel. Seminars will be led by Dr Ekaterina Oparina.


This course is available on the Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-Columbia), Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-Sciences Po), Double Master of Public Administration (LSE-University of Toronto), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Columbia), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Sciences Po), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), Master of Public Administration and Master of Public Policy. This course is not available as an outside option.

The course is only available to students on full time programmes in the School of Public Policy

Course content

Worldwide, more and more policy-makers believe that the goal of public policy should be the wellbeing of the people.

This course will show how, with the new science of wellbeing, it is increasingly possible to make this an operational objective. Targeted at future policy-makers, this course will show how making wellbeing an operational objective of policy making is in the political interest of policy-makers and how government policies would be likely to change if they were chosen according to their cost-effectiveness in generating wellbeing.

The lectures for this course will run as follows:

  1. The concept and measurement of wellbeing
  2. The philosophy of wellbeing (and objections to it)
  3. The role of the state in the presence of irrational behaviour and human interdependence.
  4. The worldwide inequality of wellbeing and its causes (including genes)
  5. Developing policies to improve wellbeing using cost-effectiveness analysis (with wellbeing as the measure of benefit.
  6. Mental health and the role of parents, schools, and social media
  7. Income and wellbeing: the Easterlin paradox
  8. Work, unemployment, and wellbeing
  9. Community life, the environment, the planet and wellbeing
  10. Government, voting and wellbeing.

The lectures will be by Professor Richard Layard. Advice on teaching arrangements will come from Dr Christian Krekel. Classes will be taught by 2 experienced post-docs. The course will be based on Wellbeing: Science and Policy by Richard Layard and Jan-Emmanuel De Neve (Cambridge University Press, 2022).


15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

In-class presentations that students will deliver in small groups throughout the course as preparation for the written assignments.

Indicative reading

  • Layard, R. and De Neve, J-E. (2022) Wellbeing: Science and Policy. Cambridge University Press.
  • de Lazari-Radek, K., & Singer, P. (2017). Utilitarianism: A Very Short Introduction: Oxford University Press
  • Clark, A.E., Flèche, S., Layard, R., Powdthavee, N., and Ward, G. (2018). The Origins of Happiness: The Science of Well-Being over the Life Course. Princeton, MA: Princeton University Press.
  • Helliwell, J. F., Layard, R., & Sachs, J. De Neve, J.E. (Eds.). World Happiness Report. New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Latest version.
  • Helliwell, J.F. (2021) Measuring and Using Happiness to Support Public Policies.   In Lee et al (2021). Measuring Well-Being: Interdisciplinary Perspectives From the Social Sciences and the Humanities. Oxford University Press.
  • Rilling, J. K., Gutman, D. A., Zeh, T. R., Pagnoni, G., Berns, G. S., & Kilts, C. D. (2002). A neural basis for social cooperation. Neuron, 35(2), 395-405..
  • Bellet, C., De Neve, J. E., & Ward, G. (2020). Does Employee Happiness have an Impact on Productivity?. Said Business School WP, 13.
  • Flavin, P., Pacek, A. C., & Radcliff, B. (2011). State intervention and subjective well being in advanced industrial democracies. Politics & Policy, 39(2), 251-269.
  • Ward, G. (2020). Happiness and voting: evidence from four decades of elections in Europe. American Journal of Political Science, 64(3), 504-518.

Additional reading

  • Lyubomirsky, S. The how of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. Penguin Press. (2008).
  • Coghill, R. C., McHaffie, J. G., & Yen, Y. F. (2003). Neural correlates of interindividual differences in the subjective experience of pain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(14)
  • Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Marucha PT, Malarkey WB, Mercado AM, Glaser R. (1995). Slowing of wound healing by psychological stress. Lancet. 346 (8984): 1194-6.
  • Meier, S., & Stutzer, A. (2008). Is volunteering rewarding in itself?. Economica, 75(297), 39-59. Winkelmann, L., & Winkelmann, R. (1998). Why are the unemployed so unhappy? Evidence from panel data. Economica, 65(257), 1-15.
  • Luechinger, S. (2009). Valuing Air Quality Using the Life Satisfaction Approach. Economic Journal, 119, 482-515.


Coursework (35%, 1000 words) in the LT Week 9.
Report (65%) in the ST Week 1.

The coursework worth 35% will take the form of a cost effectiveness exercise.

The 3000 word report worth 65% will be assigned in week 10 and submitted at the start of Summer Term.

Key facts

Department: School of Public Policy

Total students 2021/22: Unavailable

Average class size 2021/22: Unavailable

Controlled access 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills