12th Grade Economics New York

Economic Happiness

This inquiry leads students through an investigation of recent studies that try to quantify a country’s happiness through different economic measures. By investigating the compelling question about whether Americans could be happier, students consider the ways in which economic values (e.g., freedom, security, sustainability) impact our perspectives on happiness and the extent to which we could be happier as a country. By investigating three studies of global happiness and the platforms of three American political parties, students develop a deep understanding of the relationship between values, economic policy, and how we view economic happiness and could improve upon it.


Compelling Question:

How Could Americans Be Happier?

Staging the Question:

Analyze the graph “The Happy Medium” and discuss whether money can buy happiness.

Supporting Question Why do some consider Denmark the happiest country in the world?

Formative Task List the reasons Denmark ranks number one on the World Happiness Report.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from World Happiness Report
Source B: Excerpt from Denmark Better Life Index


Supporting Question How does the United States rank in happiness?

Formative Task Create a three-column chart that reflects the three happiness studies and list the United States’ rankings and the reasons for those rankings.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from World Happiness Report
Source B: Excerpt and rankings from Economic Freedom of the World
Source C: Excerpt and rankings from Happy Planet Index


Supporting Question What economic policies could make Americans happier?

Formative Task Develop a claim using evidence about how an economic policy could make Americans happier.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from Republican Party Platform: Restoring the American Dream and Jobs
Source B: Excerpt from Democratic Party Platform: Moving America Forward
Source C: Excerpt from Green Party Platform: Economic Justice and Sustainability

Summative Performance Task

Argument: How could Americans be happier? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, or essay) that addresses the compelling question using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Evaluate Bhutan’s attempts to improve gross national happiness and the extent to which this is a viable economic approach.

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Research current economic initiatives to help the middle class.
Assess: Discuss the degree to which each political party’s platforms may help the middle class.
Act: Invite a group of teachers and staff to a classroom forum and discuss/debate the class perspectives on recent efforts to help the middle class.