Who is the happiest-looking economist?

by on June 18, 2008 at 10:17 am in Economics | Permalink

A group of researchers showed photographs, taken from economists’ home pages, to the public and the winner was Edmund Phelps; here is the paper.  Will Wilkinson, source of the tip, summarizes further (with photos) and offers this quotation:

…advice for young academics is: if you seek happiness, become a macro-economist and research happiness; a Nobel Prize does not make you happier; if you want to be popular with the ladies, take lessons from Edmund Phelps, Bruno Frey and Richard Easterlin; if you are looking for the ability to age like a red wine, Joseph Stiglitz and Jean Tirole have the trick, but not Richard Easterlin.

I thought that Milton Friedman usually looked very happy though he was not included in the poll.

1 Kieran June 18, 2008 at 10:21 am

Milton Friedman looked very happy

Call no man happy until he is dead, I suppose.

2 Just Me June 18, 2008 at 10:32 am

Thank you for posting this. Very interesting!!

3 shawn June 18, 2008 at 11:19 am


This year’s public choice society page

not sure which category randall holcombe would win…happiness won’t be it, though.

4 mravery June 18, 2008 at 11:54 am

“advice for young academics is: if you seek happiness, become…”

Shouldn’t this read:

“advice for you academics is: if you seek to appear happy to others, become…”

I realize there’s probably correlation between appearing happy and actually being happy, but we should always strive for more precise language.

5 jason voorhees June 18, 2008 at 12:19 pm

I’ve always thought Phelps seemed incredibly happy in his pictures (even his pre-Nobel pictures). That’s funny to learn that he is indeed the happiest-looking. Of course, what’s the correlation between “happy looking” and subjective happiness? Some people (and I hate these people, as I’m not one of them) have really great smiles. My smile is this strained horizontal line and it looks like I’m taking a crap. But I think I’m fairly happy (I promise!).

6 bst June 18, 2008 at 1:37 pm

Happiness can be derived from the dismal science? Say it ain’t so!

7 GVV June 18, 2008 at 2:21 pm


8 Kieran June 18, 2008 at 3:27 pm

Thanks for that, Rich, that was indeed the reference.

I think Geoff Brennan is the happiest-looking economist of my acquaintance. Tyler looks quite misanthropic in pictures; in person, I don’t know.

9 SS June 18, 2008 at 3:35 pm

Austin Goolsbee… That guy is always smiling.

10 Enrique June 18, 2008 at 4:59 pm

This is just plain old silly. Aside from my usual obections to happiness research, I reject the results out of a hand since a single photograph is a worthless indicator of happiness

11 shawn June 18, 2008 at 8:10 pm
12 ranger_granger June 18, 2008 at 10:31 pm

Andres: “Friedman certainly looked happy, and even happier when he was fighting his adversaries. He looked profoundly satisfied at every punch he threw.

Well, ignorance (of what’s going on out there in the lives of the average working person) is bliss, I suppose.

13 Carles June 19, 2008 at 8:42 am

What about Sala i Martin? Look at him in a moment of absolute joy (In the FC Barcelona Stadium, of course): http://www.columbia.edu/~xs23/Indexmuppet.htm

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