Richard Layard is the founder-Director of the Centre for Economic Performance - a leading inter-disciplinary research centre at the London School of Economics. He is currently co-Director of their Community Wellbeing programme.
Layard is an economist who wants public policy to be targeted at the wellbeing of the people. To this end he has written 6 books and some 40 articles. The first book, Happiness: Lessons from a new science (2005) was translated into 20 languages. The most recent (co-authored) book Wellbeing: Science and Policy is a field-defining textbook, showing how wellbeing science can supplement traditional economics by providing a more complete account of what affects human wellbeing.
Since 2005 he has directed a research programme to develop this evidence base. Many of the results can be found in the co-authored book The Origins of Happiness (2018), as well as in numerous articles. He is also a founding co-editor of the annual World Happiness Report.
He has also had substantial influence on public policy. In 2000 he was appointed a member of the House of Lords. In 2007 he persuaded the British government to develop a large programme of psychological therapy (IAPT, now NHS Talking Therapies), which treats 700,000 patients a year. In 2010 he influenced the UK government to measure wellbeing as a national statistic – using questions later recommended by the OECD to its member countries.
In addition to all this, he has co-founded two organizations targeted at wellbeing. Action for Happiness (founded in 2010) is a grassroots movement to promote a happier way of living. It now has over half a million members. The World Wellbeing Movement (founded in 2022) is a ‘top-down’ organisation to persuade decisionmakers to make wellbeing their priority. In these various ways Richard has been trying to promote the use of evidence to increase wellbeing.
Before that, his focus as a labour economist, was on unemployment and inequality. His analysis of unemployment with Stephen Nickell was widely used in Europe as the basis for employment policy. And before that he made significant contributions to the economics of education.
Richard is currently immersed in a major study of value-for-money across the whole field of public expenditure, where value is measured in terms of wellbeing. He considers this the next key step forward in wellbeing science.