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Subjective Well-being And The Organization Of Time

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  • Full or part time
    Dr D Wheatley
  • Application Deadline
    Applications accepted all year round

Project Description

Self-assessment of an individual’s overall well-being, referred to as subjective well-being (Dolan et al, 2008; Diener et al, 1999), has become increasingly topical given the growing awareness of the limitations of existing measures of well-being. Recent public debates regarding the role of gross domestic product, (GDP) and its profile in policy-making, have prompted movements by governments and international organizations (e.g. EU, OECD) to explore alternative/complementary measures of well-being (see Stiglitz et al, 2009).
Measures of subjective well-being capture how people experience the quality of their lives, and incorporate emotional responses and cognitive judgements. Measuring quality of life has been identified as fundamental in assessing the relative progress of societies and as having relevance for both monitoring and policy-making purposes (OECD, 2013). Indeed in the UK, under the Coalition government, the Office for National Statistics (ONS, 2014) has developed a ‘Happiness Index’ to complement GDP, the traditional economic indicator of societal improvement.

This project aims to enhance our understanding of subjective well-being by exploring the impact of the organization of time. The project, moreover, seeks to offers an international dimension through contemporary empirical data collection and analysis drawn from secondary data sources and primary data collected as part of case studies conducted in two OECD countries. Time comprises a range of different uses, each one distinct but at the same time closely tied to the others creating blurred boundaries and complex routines. This project will consider the complex interaction between work-time (reflecting on both the location and timing of paid work), work-related time including the commute, household time, and leisure time. Mainstream economists approaches to time-use simplify the analysis to a rational choice between work (a bad which is consumed to generate income) and leisure (a good), subject to a budget constraint (Becker, 1976). However, alternative perspectives are critical of the mainstream approach. Radical and Marxian approaches, for example, identify the presence of conflict over the length of the working day, with structural and social forces playing a major role in determining work-time patterns (Laibman, 1992). Feminist perspectives, further, highlight the role of gendered norms in the household division of labour, and subsequently labour supplied to the capitalist sphere, which may reflect inequality and gender oppression (Sirianni and Negrey, 2000). Time-use is itself complex, and time spent in a range of activities can equally act as a source of satisfaction or dissatisfaction dependent on the constraints faced and the preferences of the individual. How we use time is thus relevant when exploring happiness and well-being and requires investigation.

Proposed Methods
The project applies a mixed method approach. Empirical analysis will be conducted in two OECD countries, in two stages: (1) using large-scale secondary data sources (e.g. for the UK data will be extracted from the British Household Panel Survey, Labour Force Survey, Understanding Society, Workplace Employee Relations Survey), and; (2) through primary data collected through two smaller-scale quantitative-qualitative case studies conducted in the UK and one other OECD country (to be determined by the PhD candidate).


Becker, G. (1976). The Economic approach to Human Behaviour. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Review, 125, 276–302.
Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., White, M. (2008). Do We Really Know What Makes Us Happy? A Review Of The Economic Literature On The Factors Associated With Subjective Wellbeing. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 1, 94-122.
Laibman, D. (1992). Value, Technical Change and Crisis: Explorations in Marxist Economic Theory. New York: M.E. Sharpe.
OECD (2013). Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-Being [online]. Available at:
Office for National Statistics (ONS) (2014). Measuring National Well-Being [online]. Available at:
Sirianni, C., and Negrey, C. (2000). Working Time as Gendered Time. Feminist Economics, 6, pp. 59-76.
Stiglitz, J., Sen, A., Fitoussi, JP. (2009). Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress [online]. Available at:
Wheatley, D. (2012). Good to be home? Time-use and Satisfaction Levels among Home-based Teleworkers. New Technology, Work and Employment, 27(3), 224-41.
Wheatley, D. (2014). Travel-to-Work and Subjective Well-Being: A Study of UK Dual Career Households. Journal of Transport Geography, 39, pp. 187-196.

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