IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

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


  • Anna Maffioletti
  • Agata Maida
  • Francesco Scacciati


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Anna Maffioletti & Agata Maida & Francesco Scacciati, 2013. "Survey Design and Response Analysis: a Study on Happiness, Life Satisfaction and Well-being in Piedmont, a Region of Italy," LABORatorio R. Revelli Working Papers Series 131, LABORatorio R. Revelli, Centre for Employment Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:cca:wplabo:131

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
    2. Scoppa Vincenzo & Ponzo Michela, 2008. "An Empirical Study of Happiness in Italy," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 8(1), pages 1-23, June.
    3. Van Praag, Bernard, 1971. "The welfare function of income in Belgium: An empirical investigation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 11(3), pages 337-369.
    4. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2002. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 402-435, June.
    5. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-484, July.
    6. Bernard M. S. van Praag, 2007. "Perspectives from the Happiness Literature and the Role of New Instruments for Policy Analysis," CESifo Economic Studies, CESifo, vol. 53(1), pages 42-68, March.
    7. 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.
    8. Oswald, Andrew J, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1815-1831, November.
    9. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur Stone, 2004. "Toward National Well-Being Accounts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 429-434, May.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. Bruno S. Frey, 2008. "Happiness: A Revolution in Economics," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262062771, January.
    13. Jon Elster, 1998. "Emotions and Economic Theory," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 47-74, March.
    14. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2005. "Income and well-being: an empirical analysis of the comparison income effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 997-1019, June.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Happiness; Satisfaction; Well-Being; Survey Design;

    JEL classification:

    • B21 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought since 1925 - - - Microeconomics
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • C83 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Survey Methods; Sampling Methods
    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • J28 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Safety; Job Satisfaction; Related Public Policy

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cca:wplabo:131. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Giovanni Bert). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.