The difference between expected and experienced utility: findings from some studies on having children

Hatime Kamilcelebi and Ruut Veenhoven
Journal of Academic Social Science Studies, nr. 50, pp. 343-354, Autum II 2016, DOI

Daniel Kahneman distinguishes between two types of utility, namely; expected utility and experienced utility. He argued that the concepts of utility have different meanings. The main purpose of this article is to explain differences between expected and experienced utility on having child. Expected utility defines people’s beliefs about the future effects of a choice on happiness. Experienced utility refers to the hedonic experience associated with a choice. These kinds of utility do not always concur; one can expect to get happier while in fact one does not. Especially childless co-uples and women believe that children will make them happier. Men believe less than women that children will make them happier. This result indicates expected utility. Do they actually get happier after the birth of a child? Are the levels of expected and experienced utility the same in their answers? After and before the birth of a child their utility levels differ. In general, happiness of women and men alike are at its climax when the first child is born and its positive effect lasts about a year after birth. Happiness of women and men would revert to pre-birth levels after one year following the birth of the first child. Having one or more children makes their parents happy at the same level. The differences between after and before the birth of a child indicate the difference between expected utility and experienced utility.

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