Abstract The evaluation of social programs constitutes an important aspect in the modeling of economic policies. On the basis that the measurement of well being through subjective measures provides a broader perspective than through objective economic variables, this paper first identifies the determinants of deprivation in Spain, in monetary terms, and in non-monetary terms using satisfaction variables. In addition to establishing that the more unequal the income distribution within a group, the less income-satisfied is the individual, we find that unemployment is one of the main determinants of deprivation and satisfaction. Accordingly, we propose a reform of unemployment benefit policy that maintains individuals at the same utility level as when employed, rather than applying the current benefit system. Our policy conclusions reveal that the public budget dedicated to paying benefits to restore satisfaction levels, during the period 1994–1999, would have increased by €2,536,165.13 thousand on an average annually. It could be a desirable policy in good times but, since it increases public spending and thus public deficit, economic policy makers should decide whether it is adequate in rainy days.