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Survey Design and Response Analysis: a Study on Happiness, Life Satisfaction and Well-being in Piedmont, a Region of Italy

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  • Anna Maffioletti
  • Agata Maida
  • Francesco Scacciati

Abstract

In the literature of happiness economics individual subjective utility is measured by directly asking individuals to self-assess their level of utility, usually on a numerical scale, using various terms such as happiness, life satisfaction and well-being, most of the times taking for granted that they are synonymous. Despite the richness of happiness economics literature, several terminological and methodological issues still need to be investigated. This paper presents the results of a field survey conducted in the Region of Piedmont (Northern Italy) by means of 1250 face-to-face interviews, financed by Piedmont Government, in order to assess the level of happiness, life satisfaction and quality of life using three different scales: a verbal one (7 steps from, say, very unhappy to very happy, a unipolar cardinal scale (from 1 to 7) and bipolar cardinal scale (from -3 to 3). We have also examined the effects of wording and scales on those that turned out to be the main determinants of the three notions. We show that wording clearly matters: not only each subject (in most cases) self-reports differently her/his own happiness, life satisfaction and well-being and therefore they may be similar but not equivalent notions, but also their determinants turn out to be different. Moreover, we find that the use of different scales leads to different results. However, a clear pattern does not emerge: therefore we cannot state which numerical scale performs better in representing the verbal self-reported valuations.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by LABORatorio R. Revelli, Centre for Employment Studies in its series LABORatorio R. Revelli Working Papers Series with number 131.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:cca:wplabo:131

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Keywords: Happiness; Satisfaction; Well-Being; Survey Design;

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  1. Bruno S. Frey, 2008. "Happiness: A Revolution in Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262062771.
  2. Bernard M.S. van Praag, 2007. "Perspectives from the Happiness Literature and the Role of New Instruments for Policy Analysis," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 07-049/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  3. Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2006. "Some Uses of Happiness Data in Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 25-46, Winter.
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  5. Van Praag, Bernard, 1971. "The welfare function of income in Belgium: An empirical investigation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 337-369.
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  8. Kahneman, Daniel & Wakker, Peter P & Sarin, Rakesh, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-405, May.
  9. Frey, Bruno S. & Benesch, Christine & Stutzer, Alois, 2007. "Does watching TV make us happy?," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 283-313, June.
  10. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "What can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," IEW - Working Papers 080, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  11. Oswald, Andrew J, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1815-31, November.
  12. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  13. Jon Elster, 1998. "Emotions and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 47-74, March.
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  15. Gabriella Conti & Stephen Pudney, 2011. "Survey Design and the Analysis of Satisfaction," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(3), pages 1087-1093, August.
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