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Member Highlight: Ada Ferrer i Carbonell

1. First, list your current professional title. Second, describe your background, experience, and research as it relates to Quality-of-life studies. Feel free to describe this in detail.

I am currently a tenured scientist at the Institute for Economic Analysis of the Spanish Council for Scientific Research (IAE-CSIC) as well as an affiliated professor of the Barcelona School of Economics. Since April 2020 I am the director of the World Well-Being Panel and together with the managing committee (Tony Beatton, Paul Frijters, and Arthur Grimes) we design surveys in which we ask an international panel of experts questions of relevance to wellbeing policy. The goal is to promote wellbeing as the ultimate purpose of all major decision makers, particularly governments.

I studied economics at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (1989-1992) and wrote my Phd in Economics with professor Van Praag at the University of Amsterdam (1999-2003). The title of my dissertation was “Quantitative Analyses of Wellbeing with Economic Applications”. I also hold a second PhD from RPI (Troy, NY) (1997-2003) with the title “Consumption, Behavior and the Environment: Theoretical and Empirical Dimensions”.

Professor Van Praag introduced me not only to the research on subjective wellbeing, but also to the network of researchers working in the field. While working towards my PhD I had the opportunity to work with him and other researchers in Amsterdam (notably Paul Frijters) on self-reported satisfaction, happiness, and wellbeing. This was a unique opportunity and it was fundamental for my career as a researcher. Since then a substantial part of my research focuses on the use of subjective or self-reported wellbeing questions to understand individuals’ preferences, including the impact that public policies might have on the citizens’ welfare.

2.  What initially attracted you to the field of quality-of-life studies?

I decided to start my PhD in this field for its social relevance and my interest in individuals’ welfare and behavior. From an economist perspective, I have always been interested in measuring utility, preferences, and the determinants of the demand for certain goods well before I knew about the existence of self-reported measures of satisfaction. Discovering this literature and their use as a proxy measure for utility was a privilege.

From a policy and social perspective, I have always been concerned about inequality of only of income or economic opportunities, but also of a broader concept encompassing things such as access to culture, leisure, safety, social capital, or health, to name a few. When I first came across the self-reported measures of satisfaction I realized these offered a road to describe and measure this broader concept.

3. What are some areas of quality-of-life studies you feel are lacking attention? Any advice for future QoL researchers?

From a policy perspective, I think we need to place much more effort into putting wellbeing at the center of policy. There has been increasing attention to subjective wellbeing, quality of life, and mental health, but these concepts are not yet central. Occupation, inflation or economic growth remain the main goals of any government. Therefore, our job as academics is to show the value of wellbeing measures to guide policy decisions.

From an academic (economist) perspective I think it is important to continue working on showing and proving the validity of the subjective measures and, equally important, to focus on its causal relation to the individual situation, including those variables that depend on policy decisions. Much of the current work has focused on correlations, but to guide policy decisions we need to move towards causality, as much as possible.

4. How long have you been a member of ISQOLS? Why did you choose to be a member of ISQOLS? How has your involvement in ISQOLS impacted your career/research/advancement in your knowledge of QoL studies?

The ISQOLS offers a unique opportunity to interact with researchers that are interested in the exact same things as you, but from different angles. In economics, there are few people working on QoL and the ISQOLS is the place where those with the same interest can meet and, most importantly, get inputs from other disciplines. I have always closely followed the ISQOLS, subscribed to the newsletter, and followed all the activities.

5. Feel free to include any other important comments or things you'd like to share with the ISQOLS community.

It is very important to keep the society strong, as it offers the unique possibility to interact and generate knowledge on a socially relevant issue. We have a rough road ahead of us, with political and social tensions, and it is more important than ever to be well equipped to understand how each political and international decision impacts the quality of life of citizens.

The International Society for
Quality-of-Life Studies

P.O. Box 118
Gilbert, Arizona, 85299, USA


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