John F. Helliwell

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John F. Helliwell, economist and editor of the World Happiness Report, speaking at the World Government Summit in Dubai in 2017 about happiness as the purpose of government

John F. Helliwell (born August 15, 1937) is a Canadian economist[1] and editor of the World Happiness Report. He is a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and Co-Director of the CIFAR Programme on Social Interactions, Identity, and Well-Being;[2][3] Board Director of the International Positive Psychology Association,[4] and Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of British Columbia.[5]

Helliwell's early research heavily focused on developing national and global econometric models for studying national economies and their international linkages, including integrating energy considerations into models, for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD),[6] Bank of Canada, the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and the International Project Link,[7] the latter led by Nobel Laureate, Lawrence Klein. (For a history of how central banks, and especially the Bank of Canada, developed macro econometric models in the 1960s and 1970s, see the Bank of Canada Review publication From Flapper to Bluestocking: What Happened to the Young Woman of Wellington Street?[8]).

During his tenure at Harvard from 1991–1996 as a Mackenzie King Chair of Canadian Studies between 1991–1994, and Fulbright Fellow and Chair of the Canada Seminar 1995–1996,[9] he conducted research in collaboration with Robert Putnam in the study of social capital as a measure of the social linkages that help communities to operate effectively. This work lead to research into using measures of subjective well-being to provide a broader way of measuring human progress. Helliwell subsequently collaborated with other researchers in the emerging field, including Robert Putnam, Ed Diener, Daniel Kahneman, Richard Layard, and a wide variety of other researchers and practitioners. The World Happiness Report grew out of a conference in Thimphu chaired by past Bhutanese Prime Minister Thinley and Jeffrey Sachs, held pursuant to the United Nation's June 2011 General Assembly Resolution 65/309, Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development,[10] introduced by Bhutan, and in preparation for, and support of, the subsequent High Level Meeting at the United Nation's headquarters in New York City called Happiness and Wellbeing: Defining a New Economic Paradigm[11] held on April 2, 2012.

Early life and education[edit]

Helliwell was raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, the son of Kathleen Birnie Helliwell (maiden name Kerby, born in Grand Forks, British Columbia in 1904) and father John L. Helliwell (born Vancouver BC in 1904, a partner of Helliwell, MacLachlan & Co, Chartered Accountants), donor[12] of Helliwell Provincial Park on Hornby Island. He graduated from Prince of Wales High School and attended University of British Columbia where he received a bachelor of arts in commerce in 1959, graduating as a valedictorian.[13] In 1959, he was a British Columbia Rhodes Scholar to Oxford, where he read for the Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) with a specialization in philosophy at St. John’s College, Oxford and received a first class in 1961.[14] He received a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) in economics from Nuffield College, Oxford’s graduate college for the social sciences, with his thesis entitled The Investment Process, submitted in 1965 and received in 1966 based on research he conducted for the Royal Commission on Banking and Finance (1964) and the Royal Commission on Taxation (1966), in both cases studying how firms make decisions to invest in plant, equipment, and research. A revised version of the thesis published by Oxford University Press entitled Public Policies and Private Investment in 1968.[15]

Academic career[edit]

Helliwell was appointed Associate Professor of Economics at the University of British Columbia in 1967, becoming Professor in 1971 and Professor Emeritus in 2003.[16] (His interview is part of the University of British Columbia Legacy project.[17]). He served as head of the University of British Columbia economics department between 1989–1991 and member of the University of British Columbia Senate between 1989–1991 and 1999–2002. Helliwell was a Fulbright Fellow and co-chair of the Canada Program at Harvard University between 1995 – 1996. In 2003, he was a visiting research fellow of Merton College, Oxford, in 2001 he was a Christensen Fellow at St. Catherine's College, Oxford, and Killam Visiting Scholar at the University of Calgary in 2005.

Professional activities[edit]

Helliwell has served in a wide range of official advisory posts over the years,[14] including membership on the Royal Commission on National Passenger Transportation between 1989–1992, senior advisor to the secretary general of the OECD between 1983–84, chair of economic advisory panel to the Canadian Minister of Finance between 1982–84,[16] and president of the Canadian Economics Association between 1985–86.[18] He was a board member for the Institute for Research in Public Policy between 1999–2007 and he served as a board member of Social Research and Demonstration Corporation between 2002 – 2015.[14] Between 2003–2004, he served as special advisor at the Bank of Canada,[19] and between 2002–2010, he was on the International Advisory Board for the Centre for International Governance Innovation.[20] He was a member of Canadian National Statistics Council between 2001–2015.[21] He was an advisory forum member to the United Kingdom Office of National Statistics,[22] and was on the advisory committee of the Ditchley Foundation.[23] He also served as a member of the Steering Group for the Center for Economic Performance[24] and Arthur A.E. Child Foundation Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Helliwell lives with his wife, Judith Millie Helliwell,[25] a trained nurse at Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal. They married in 1969 and have two sons, David and James.[13] They currently live British Columbia, Canada. Over the course of their marriage, they have lived and worked in their respective fields in Cambridge, London, Ottawa, Oxford, Stockholm, Sydney and Paris.

Honors and awards[edit]

In 2017, Helliwell was made a Distinguished Fellow of CIFAR. In 2014, on behalf of the World Happiness Report, together with Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs, he was granted the International Society for Quality of Life Standards' Award for the Betterment of the Human Condition.[26]

His other awards include:[14]

  • Canada Council Doctoral Fellowship, 1962–64
  • Killam Senior Research Fellowship, Canada Council, 1970
  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, 1976
  • Certificate of Merit for Excellence in Teaching, UBC, 1977 (Master Teacher Awards)
  • Jacob Biely Research Prize, U.B.C., 1978
  • Faculty of Commerce, U.B.C., Distinguished Alumnus Award 1979
  • Killam Research Prize, U.B.C., 1987
  • Officer of the Order of Canada, 1987
  • 125th Anniversary Medal, Canada, 1992
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of Guelph, 1994
  • U.B.C. 75th Anniversary Award
  • Douglas Purvis Prize 1999
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws, McMaster University, 2000
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of New Brunswick, 2001
  • Queen's Golden Jubilee Award, Canada, 2003
  • Donner Prize, 2002-3.

Speaking engagements[edit]

Helliwell is a frequent keynote and panel speaker at international conferences and other events. His talks include Using Happiness Research to Better Adapt at TEDx Brentwood College School[27] in 2016, The Truth about Happiness at the OMSSA Human Services Integration Policy Conference[28] in 2013, and Freedom Brings Happiness at the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education[29] in 2012. He has also spoken at the World Government Summit in 2017,[30] as a plenary speaker for the Regional Studies Association[31] in 2015, at the Social Identity Conference[32] in 2014, the Gallup Positive Psychology Summit in Washington in 2006, the Gross National Happiness conferences in Nova Scotia in 2005[33] and Brazil 2009,[34] the Development Conference in Celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of the Indian Statistical Institute in New Delhi in 2007, International Forum on Well-Being and Development Policy in Guadalajara in 2014, European Meetings of the International Positive Psychology Association held in Amsterdam in 2015. In 2017, he was the keynote speaker for the International Society for Quality of Life Studies (ISQOLS) annual conference.[35]


Helliwell has authored, edited and contributed to numerous articles,[36][37][38][39] books,[40] as well as editorials.[41] He was managing editor for the Canadian Journal of Economics between 1979–82, executive editor of the Journal of Asian Economics between 1995–2000, member of editorial board, Canadian Business Economics between 1995–2001, founding member of editorial board of the Canadian Public Policy between 1974–77, founding member of editorial board of the Journal of Public Economics between1974-90, and has been a member of editorial board of economic modeling since 1994.[13]

Books – partial bibliography[edit]

  • Well-being and Public Policy (2009) with Ed Diener, Richard Lucas, Ulrich Schimmack[42]
  • International Differences in Well-Being (2010) with Daniel Kahneman and Ed Diener[43]
  • Globalization and Well-being (2003)[44]
  • The Contribution of Human and Social Capital to Sustained Economic Growth and Well-Being (2001)[45]
  • How Much Do Borders Matter? Integrating National Economies (1998)[46]
  • Long-Run Economic Growth (1996) Edited with Steven Durlauf and Baldev Raj[47]

Articles – partial bibliography[edit]

  • A Pioneer in Broadening the Use of Subjective Well-Being to Measure and Improve Quality of Life, and in Establishing the Social Sources of Well-Being. Applied Research in Quality of Life, vol 14(1), pages 287–289[48]
  • Empirical Linkages between Good Governance and National Well-being. Journal of Comparative Economics, vol 46(4), pages 1332-1346, with Haifang Huang, Shawn Grover, Shun Wang .[49]
  • How Durable are Social Norms? Immigrant Trust and Generosity in 132 Countries. Social Indicators Research- An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 128(1), pages 201–219, August., with Shun Wang and Jinwen Xu[50]
  • Measuring and Understanding Subjective Well-Being. Canadian Journal of Economics, Vol. 43, Issue 3, pp. 729–753, April 2010, doi: 10.3386/w15887 with Christopher P. Barrington-Leigh.[51]
  • How's Your Government? International Evidence Linking Good Government and Well-Being. British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 38, pp 595–619. 2008, doi:10.3386/w11988 with Haifang Huang. H.[52]
  • Well-Being, Social Capital and Public Policy: What's New? The Economic Journal, 116: C34–C45. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0297.2006.01074, 2006[53]
  • Good Governance and National Well-being What Are the Linkages? OECD Working Papers on Public Governance, October 2014 doi: 10.1787/5jxv9f651hvj-en with Haifang Huang, Shawn Grover and Shun Wang in collaboration with Mario Marcel, Martin Forst and Tatyana Teplova[54]


  1. ^ "John F. Helliwell – Welcome". Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  2. ^ "John F. Helliwell". CIFAR. Retrieved May 20, 2017.
  3. ^ "CIFAR John Helliwell Profile".
  4. ^ "IPPA – Board of Directors / Members-at-Large section".
  5. ^ "John Helliwell, Professor Emeritus at University of British Columbia, Canada".
  6. ^ Helliwell, Sturm, Jarrett, Salow. "The Supply Side in the OECD's Macroeconomic Model". CiteSeerX Cite journal requires |journal= (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. ^ Klein, Lawrence (1976). "Project LINK: Linking National Economic Models". Challenge. 19 (5): 25–29. doi:10.1080/05775132.1976.11470258. JSTOR 40719477.
  8. ^ "From Flapper to Bluestocking: What Happened to the Young Woman of Wellington Street?" (PDF). Bank of Canada Review.
  9. ^ "John F. Helliwell, Professional Activities, Faculty University of British Columbia".
  10. ^ "Happiness : towards a holistic approach to development : resolution / adopted by the General Assembly". Archived from the original on October 17, 2017. Retrieved May 21, 2017.
  11. ^ "Defining a New Economic Paradigm: The Report of the High-Level Meeting on Wellbeing and Happiness".
  12. ^ "Fillongley, Tribune Bay, Helliwell Sandy Island Parks Master Plan" (PDF).
  13. ^ a b c "John Forbes Helliwell ,University of British Columbia CV".
  14. ^ a b c d e "John Forbes Helliwell University of British Columbia Homepage".
  15. ^ Helliwell, John (1968). Public policies and private investment. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0198281566.
  16. ^ a b "University of British Columbia Economics Department Page for John Helliwell".
  17. ^ Helliwell, John F. (2013). "John F. Helliwell : UBC Legacy Project interview". doi:10.14288/1.0167912. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  18. ^ "Canadian Economics Association CEA Fellow: John F. Helliwell".
  19. ^ "Bank of Canada Announces Appointment of Special Adviser". June 20, 2003.
  20. ^ "The Centre for International Governance and Innovation" (PDF).
  21. ^ Yabut (August 6, 2010). "About the National Statistics Council of Canada".
  22. ^ "Measuring National Well-being Advisory Forum Members".
  23. ^ "Canadian Programme Advisory Committee". The Ditchley Foundation.
  24. ^ "World Wellbeing Panel Steering Group". Centre for Economic Performance.
  25. ^ "John L. Helliwell entry in Canadian Who's Who 2014".
  26. ^ "World Happiness Report Wins Award For the Betterment Of the Human Condition". International Society for Quality of Life Studies. September 30, 2014.
  27. ^ "Using Happiness Research to Better Adapt".
  28. ^ "The Truth about Happiness".
  29. ^ "Freedom Brings Happiness".
  30. ^ "World Government Summit speaker John Helliwell".
  31. ^ "Regional Studies Association plenary speaker John Helliwell".
  32. ^ "Social Identity Conference Speaker John Helliwell".
  33. ^ "The Second International Conference on Gross National Happiness".
  34. ^ "Gross National Happiness Conference 2009 Program".
  35. ^ "Keynote Lecture: How can happiness research help to build better lives?". December 2016.
  36. ^ "Recent Publications".
  37. ^ "Working Papers".
  38. ^ "Bibliography for John Helliwell". The Dalai Lama Center. November 4, 2010.
  39. ^ "NBER Working Papers by John F. Helliwell".
  40. ^ "Good Read's Books by John F. Helliwell".
  41. ^ "Comments and Editorials".
  42. ^ Diener, Lucas, Schimmac and Helliwell, E, R, U & E (2009). Well-Being for Public Policy. Oxford Positive Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195334074.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  43. ^ Diener, Kahneman, Helliwell, E, D & J (2010). International Differences in Well-Being. Oxford Positive Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0199732739.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  44. ^ Helliwell, John (2002). Globalization and Well-being. ISBN 978-0-7748-0993-1.
  45. ^ Helliwell, John (2001). The Contribution of Human and Social Capital to Sustained Economic Growth and Well-Being. OECD and Human Resources Development Canada. ISBN 978-0-662-30486-9.
  46. ^ Helliwell, John (1998). How Much Do National Borders Matter?. Brookings Institution. ISBN 9780815791485.
  47. ^ Durlauf, Helliwell & Raj (1996). Long-Run Economic Growth. Studies in Empirical Economics.
  48. ^ Helliwell, John (March 2019). "A Pioneer in Broadening the Use of Subjective Well-Being to Measure and Improve Quality of Life, and in Establishing the Social Sources of Well-Being". Applied Research in Quality of Life. 14: 287–289. doi:10.1007/s11482-019-9707-7.
  49. ^ Helliwell, John (March 2019). "Empirical linkages between good governance and national well-being". Journal of Comparative Economics. 46: 332–1346 – via ScienceDirect.
  50. ^ Helliwell, John; Wang, Shun; Xu, Jinwen (August 2014). "How Durable are Social Norms? Immigrant Trust and Generosity in 132 Countries" (PDF). Social Indicators Research. 128 (1): 201–129. doi:10.1007/s11205-015-1026-2.
  51. ^ Helliwell, John (August 2010). "Measuring and Understanding Subjective Well-Being". Canadian Journal of Economics. 43 (3): 729–753. CiteSeerX doi:10.1111/j.1540-5982.2010.01592.x.
  52. ^ Helliwell, John (2008). "How's Your Government? International Evidence Linking Good Government and Well-Being". British Journal of Political Science. 38: 595–619. doi:10.3386/w1198.
  53. ^ Helliwell, John (February 28, 2006). "Well-Being, Social Capital and Public Policy: What's New?" (PDF). The Economic Journal. 116 (510): C34–C45. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0297.2006.01074.x.
  54. ^ Helliwell, John (October 24, 2014). "Good Governance and National Well-being What Are the Linkages? You or your institution have access to this content". OECD Working Papers on Public Governance. doi:10.1787/5jxv9f651hvj-en.