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A Happy Nation? Opportunities and Challenges of Using Subjective Indicators in Policymaking

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  • Christian Kroll

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  • Jan Delhey

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Abstract

This article seeks to combine decades of academic research with emerging policy demands by systematically assessing the state of the knowledge on using subjective indicators in public policy. In particular, it outlines opportunities that arise from a new focus on subjective information as a basis for policy decisions and challenges that ought to be overcome. The paper presents pros and cons of using subjective (versus objective) indicators, and it discusses six ways in which information on citizens’ subjective well-being (SWB) can advance the policymaking process: Monitoring progress, informing policy design, policy appraisal, examining the divergence of objective and subjective quality of life, ranking public institutions and allocating resources, as well as informing development strategies and goals. In doing so, best practice examples are presented and put in context. Finally, subjective measures “beyond SWB” are discussed and a new measure for the overall satisfaction with society is suggested. The next frontier for research and practice will be to build on the potential outlined here and to address the deficits in order make the most out of subjective indicators and the unique value they can add to the policymaking process. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Christian Kroll & Jan Delhey, 2013. "A Happy Nation? Opportunities and Challenges of Using Subjective Indicators in Policymaking," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 114(1), pages 13-28, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:114:y:2013:i:1:p:13-28
    DOI: 10.1007/s11205-013-0380-1
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Stefano Bartolini & Ennio Bilancini & Maurizio Pugno, 2008. "Did the Decline in Social Capital Depress Americans’ Happiness?," Department of Economics University of Siena 540, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    2. Ed Diener & Eunkook Suh, 1997. "Measuring Quality Of Life: Economic, Social, And Subjective Indicators," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 40(1), pages 189-216, January.
    3. Christian Kroll, 2011. "Different Things Make Different People Happy: Examining Social Capital and Subjective Well-Being by Gender and Parental Status," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 104(1), pages 157-177, October.
    4. Richard Layard, 2006. "Happiness and Public Policy: a Challenge to the Profession," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 116(510), pages 24-33, March.
    5. Jan Delhey, 2010. "From Materialist to Post-Materialist Happiness? National Affluence and Determinants of Life Satisfaction in Cross-National Perspective," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 97(1), pages 65-84, May.
    6. Jan Delhey & Petra Böhnke & Roland Habich & Wolfgang Zapf, 2002. "Quality of life in a European Perspective: The EUROMODULE as a New Instrument for Comparative Welfare Research," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 58(1), pages 161-175, June.
    7. Delhey, Jan & Kroll, Christian, 2012. "A "happiness test" for the new measures of national well-being: How much better than GDP are they?," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Inequality and Social Integration SP I 2012-201, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    8. Alex Michalos, 1985. "Multiple discrepancies theory (MDT)," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 16(4), pages 347-413, May.
    9. Richard Eckersley, 2000. "The State and Fate of Nations: Implications of Subjective Measures of Personal and Social Quality of Life," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 52(1), pages 3-27, October.
    10. Veenhoven, Ruut, 2004. "Subjective Measures of Well-being," WIDER Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    11. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
    12. Dolan, Paul & Layard, Richard & Metcalfe, Robert, 2011. "Measuring subjective well-being for public policy," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 35420, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    13. Oswald, Andrew J. & Wu, Stephen, 2010. "Objective Confirmation of Subjective Measures of Human Well-being: Evidence from the USA," IZA Discussion Papers 4695, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    14. Wolfgang Zapf, 2000. "Social Reporting in the 1970s and in the 1990s," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 51(1), pages 1-15, July.
    15. Gasper, Des, 2010. "Understanding the diversity of conceptions of well-being and quality of life," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 351-360, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Hui Li & Ting Gong & Hanyu Xiao, 2016. "The Perception of Anti-corruption Efficacy in China: An Empirical Analysis," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 125(3), pages 885-903, February.
    2. Delhey, Jan & Steckermeier, Leonie C., 2016. "The Good Life, Affluence, and Self-reported Happiness: Introducing the Good Life Index and Debunking Two Popular Myths," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 50-66.
    3. repec:spr:chinre:v:9:y:2016:i:3:d:10.1007_s12187-015-9342-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Greco, Salvatore & Ishizaka, Alessio & Tasiou, Menelaos & Torrisi, Gianpiero, 2018. "σ-µ efficiency analysis: A new methodology for evaluating units through composite indices," MPRA Paper 83569, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. repec:spr:jhappi:v:19:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s10902-016-9812-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Eefje Steenvoorden, 2015. "A General Discontent Disentangled: A Conceptual and Empirical Framework for Societal Unease," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 124(1), pages 85-110, October.
    7. repec:bla:jomstd:v:54:y:2017:i:6:p:929-956 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:spr:chinre:v:9:y:2016:i:2:d:10.1007_s12187-015-9323-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Ian Bache & Louise Reardon & Paul Anand, 2016. "Wellbeing as a Wicked Problem: Navigating the Arguments for the Role of Government," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 893-912, June.
    10. Abigail Self, 2017. "Quality of Life Measurement and Application to Policy: Experiences from the UK Office for National Statistics," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 147-160, January.

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