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Wolfers lectures of economics and the key to happiness

Caroline Campbell
Layout Coordinator

He stood at the podium in his gray suit with a purple shirt and a yellow paisley tie; his Australian accent rang as he said, “Who is the idiot that invited a scientist?” Dr. Justin Wolfers served as the keynote speaker for the Robert Christie Lecture as a part of the International Policy Conference (IPC): The Essentials of Happiness Conference.

The IPC: Happiness Conference occurred Oct. 1 and 2, and various Millersville departments hosted sessions on happiness. Thursday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m., the keynote speaker, Wolfers, was introduced by Dr. Diane Zimmerman Umble, the dean of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Caroline Campbell / Snapper
Dr. Umble (left) introduced Dr. Wolfers (right) at the Robert Christie Lecture during the IPC Happiness Conference. Photo courtesy of Caroline Campbell.

Wolfers began his speech on the idea that it is important to study economics to get a complete understanding of happiness.

“We need to break down departmental walls,” said Wolfers, as he described how through combining different disciplines society can creating a holistic approach to happiness and create a better world.

The room was full of students who were taking copious notes, as Wolfers flipped through colorful charts and graphs as he described the correlation between happiness and economics. The premise of his research was the more economic prosperity one has, the happier they are.  He showed the correlation between different countries and described the historical trends of economic development and the expansion of happiness.

With humorous side comments, Wolfers deconstructed the Easterlin Paradox and the false premise of “miserable millionaires and happy peasants.”  Through personalization and enthusiasm, Wolfers painted economics as a fundamental part in the development of happiness. The bulk of his message boiled down to this simplistic statement: rich people are happier than poor people.  

At the end of the conference, he engaged the students with a question and answer session. During that time, he touched on subjects of gender inequality and financial distributions among countries. He explained how women were happier than men in the 1970’s, however that dynamic changed as time progressed. He outlined his new research and emphasized gender inequality and the changing of family dynamics in relation to economic happiness.  

Wolfers, a professor of economics and public policy, is on leave from the University of Michigan and he is currently a visiting professor of economics at the University of Sydney.  He is a columnist for the Bloomberg View, The New York Times and the Freakonomics Blog and he was named by the International Monetary Fund as one of the “25 economists under 45 shaping the way we think about the global economy.”  Dr. Wolfers earned his Ph.D. in economics in 2001 from Harvard University, and was a Fulbright, Knox and Menzies Scholar.

For more information about Wolfers research, please visit: http://bit.ly/1vmNJZu

The Robert Christie Lecture was established in 1980, in honor of Robert Christie the president of Millersville University from 1965 to 1968. The lectureship fund invites respected leaders in the economic and business to speak and engage the campus community.