Michael Plant

To WELLBY or not to WELLBY? Measuring non-health, non-pecuniary benefits using subjective wellbeing

We propose the wellbeing-adjusted life year (WELLBY), the SWB equivalent of the DALY or QALY, as the obvious framework to do cost-effectiveness analyses of non-health, non-pecuniary benefits. As our previous work has shown, using WELLBYs can change funding priorities by giving more weight to improving mental health, compared to DALYs or income measures; and they may reveal different priorities in other areas too.

Deworming and decay: replicating GiveWell’s cost-effectiveness analysis

We provide four recommendations to improve the clarity and transparency of GiveWell’s cost-effectiveness analyses. These are to (1) publicly explain and defend their assumptions about the effect of deworming over time; (2) explain their cost-effectiveness analyses in writing; (3) illustrate the sensitivity of their results to key parameters; (4) make it clear when an estimate is subjective or evidence-based.

Will faster economic growth make us happier? The relevance of the Easterlin Paradox to Progress Studies

Progress Studies has been popularised by academics such as Tyler Cowen and Steven Pinker. However, the Easterlin Paradox presents a real challenge to the claim that if we want more progress, we just need to improve the long-run growth rate - a view that Cowen argues for in his book Stubborn Attachments.

Happiness for the whole family

We update our previous analysis to incorporate the household spillover effects for cash transfers and psychotherapy. We estimate that psychotherapy is 9 times (95% CI: 2, 100) more cost-effective than cash transfers. The charity StrongMinds is estimated to be 9 times (95% CI: 1, 90) more cost-effective than the charity GiveDirectly.

Global priority: mental health

This report investigates the global burden of mental illness. It sets out how big the problem is, how much spending it receives, and how those resources are allocated. It then focuses specifically on what can be done to reduce anxiety and depression in low-income countries.

The comparability of subjective scales

There are long-standing doubts about whether data from subjective scales are cardinally comparable—should we, for instance, believe that if two people self-report their happiness as '7/10' then they are as happy as each other? It is unclear how to assess whether these doubts are justified without first addressing two unresolved theoretical questions: how do people interpret subjective scales, and which assumptions are required for cardinal comparability? This working paper offers answers to both.