Yann Algan has been awarded for the second time a grant from the European Research Council (ERC) in the "Consolidator" category for the SOWELL project. This new innovative research project will explore the foundations of our social preferences and well-being through Big Data. In a context in which social cooperation and well-being have become new priorities for our societies alongside that of economic growth, it has become urgent to evaluate their determinants as well as public policies that can develop them.

Based on three main axes, the SOWELL project – Social Preferences, Well-Being and Policy – in its first stage, will seek to rethink the theory and measurement of well-being by calling upon Big Data compiled from Google enquiries, Twitter exchanges, Facebook and other forums. These Big Data indicators of well-being should allow us to, literally, take the pulse of our societies in real-time and at a geographical scale infinitely richer than traditional enquiries that ask a handful of citizens to evaluate their personal life satisfaction on a scale of 0 to 10.

The SOWELL project also aims to develop online platforms that will allow us to study the heterogeneity of social motives in the organization of our societies and thus economic behavior. In the second stage, Yann Algan will use these behavioral measurements on a large scale and the indicators of well-being that emerge from Big Data in order to analyse the economic, historical, social or even psychological determinants of well-being and cooperation.

In the final stage, the project will evaluate public policies that can enhance well-being and foster pro-social behavior among citizens, notably in the field of education with an analysis of public interventions that aim to develop non-cognitive and social skills in early childhood. This analysis will lead to the renewal of the paradigms of the evaluation of economic and public policies by integrating their effects on individual well-being and social progress.

The project will use highly original methods, first by exploiting the opportunity afforded by Big Data to test theories of well-being and social preferences. In collaboration with Sciences Po’s Medialab, an « E-Lab » will be created in order to observe and study well-being and social behaviors in our societies, corporations or schools. This laboratory will also combine experimental protocols of randomized evaluation with behavioral economics in order to study the impact of public policies on non-cognitive and social skills at school, in organizations and in the public space. The results should allow the creation of a new model of evaluation of public policies, based on social preferences and well-being.

The SOWELL Project, led by Yann Algan, will federate researchers from very different disciplines: economics, cognitive sciences, psychology, political science, sociology and anthropology.

Read the interview of Yann Algan “Big Data, Be Happy”

Older research project : Trust (from 2010 to 2014)