BALANCE: Income and the Balanced Life

Type Research Project

Duration since Oct. 25, 2012

  • Institute for Multi-Level Governance and Development IN (Details)


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  • Fellner, Wolfgang (Former researcher) Project Head
  • Humer, Stefan (Former researcher)

Abstract (English)

In this project we propose an indicator for socio economic progress and a method to measure this indicator. The indicator is based on the idea that people want to live a balanced life. The meaning of ‘a balanced life’ is not self-evident. Literature about ‘work-life balance’ illustrates the complexity of choosing between various activities and/or goals in life. Consequently, some of the main challenges of this project are to find out about

•peoples’ conceptions of a balanced life,

•why people deviate from their balanced lifestyle and

•to which extent people deviate from their balanced lifestyle.

From an economic point of view, we are particularly interested in the role of income for a balanced life.

We attempt to tackle these challenges by applying an activity framework. Based on comprehensive activity categories, people are asked to indicate how much time they spend on average on these activities. The second step is to ask people about how their current allocation of time would change in case of a relaxation of their income constraint. This thought experiment is necessary in order to separate the income constraint from personal, social, ecological, spacial and technological circumstances which have an impact on peoples’ allocation of time but cannot be altered via increases in income (or people do not want to change them and therefore do not require the money to do so).
This approach deviates fundamentally from standard economic assumptions which imply that via money people can achieve everything which is valuable in their lives (not least happiness). Our approach is more in line with Torsten Hägerstrand’s ‘Time Geography’ which explicitly takes into account a broad range of factors, enabling and restricting human behaviour and lifestyles. Instead of assuming that income is the only relevant factor/restriction for well-being we endeavour to find out about the relevance of earning income for how people want to live.


Paper presented at an academic conference or symposium

2015 Fellner, Wolfgang, Humer, Stefan, Sonnleitner, Thomas. 2015. Leading a Balanced Life: What Role for Labour?. 1st Vienna Conference on Pluralism in Economics, Vienna, Österreich, 10.04.-12.04. Invited Talk (Details)
2014 Fellner, Wolfgang, Humer, Stefan, Seidl, Roman, Sonnleitner, Thomas. 2014. Measuring Activity Preferences. IATUR Conference 2014, Turku, Finnland, 30.07.-01.08.. Invited Talk (Details)



  • Time use research