IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/iza/izadps/dp12152.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Have Econometric Analyses of Happiness Data Been Futile? A Simple Truth about Happiness Scales

Author

Listed:
  • Chen, Le-Yu

    () (Academia Sinica)

  • Oparina, Ekaterina

    () (University of Surrey)

  • Powdthavee, Nattavudh

    () (University of Warwick)

  • Srisuma, Sorawoot

    () (University of Surrey)

Abstract

Econometric analyses in the happiness literature typically use subjective well-being (SWB) data to compare the mean of observed or latent happiness across samples. Recent critiques show that com-paring the mean of ordinal data is only valid under strong assumptions that are usually rejected by SWB data. This leads to an open question whether much of the empirical studies in the economics of happiness literature have been futile. In order to salvage some of the prior results and avoid future issues, we suggest regression analysis of SWB (and other ordinal data) should focus on the median ra-ther than the mean. Median comparisons using parametric models such as the ordered probit and logit can be readily carried out using familiar statistical softwares like STATA. We also show a previously as-sumed impractical task of estimating a semiparametric median ordered-response model is also possi-ble by using a novel constrained mixed integer optimization technique. We use GSS data to show the famous Easterlin Paradox from the happiness literature holds for the US independent of any paramet-ric assumption.

Suggested Citation

  • Chen, Le-Yu & Oparina, Ekaterina & Powdthavee, Nattavudh & Srisuma, Sorawoot, 2019. "Have Econometric Analyses of Happiness Data Been Futile? A Simple Truth about Happiness Scales," IZA Discussion Papers 12152, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp12152
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://ftp.iza.org/dp12152.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2013. "Subjective Well-Being and Income: Is There Any Evidence of Satiation?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(3), pages 598-604, May.
    2. Andrew E. Clark, 2003. "Unemployment as a Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 289-322, April.
    3. Delgado, Miguel A. & Rodriguez-Poo, Juan M. & Wolf, Michael, 2001. "Subsampling inference in cube root asymptotics with an application to Manski's maximum score estimator," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 241-250, November.
    4. Terence C. Cheng & Nattavudh Powdthavee & Andrew J. Oswald, 2017. "Longitudinal Evidence for a Midlife Nadir in Human Well‐being: Results from Four Data Sets," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 127(599), pages 126-142, February.
    5. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman & Salvador Navarro, 2007. "The Identification And Economic Content Of Ordered Choice Models With Stochastic Thresholds," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 48(4), pages 1273-1309, November.
    6. Pedro Carneiro & Karsten T. Hansen & James J. Heckman, 2003. "Estimating Distributions of Treatment Effects with an Application to the Returns to Schooling and Measurement of the Effects of Uncertainty on College," NBER Working Papers 9546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
    8. Christopher J. Boyce & Alex M. Wood & James Banks & Andrew E. Clark & Gordon D. A. Brown, 2013. "Money, Well-Being, and Loss Aversion: Does an Income Loss Have a Greater Effect on Well-Being Than an Equivalent Income Gain?," PSE - Labex "OSE-Ouvrir la Science Economique" halshs-00941907, HAL.
    9. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/5l6uh8ogmqildh09h4687h53k is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Bo E. Honore & Arthur Lewbel, 2002. "Semiparametric Binary Choice Panel Data Models Without Strictly Exogeneous Regressors," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(5), pages 2053-2063, September.
    11. Carneiro, Pedro & Hansen, Karsten T. & Heckman, James J., 2003. "Estimating Distributions of Treatment Effects with an Application to the Returns to Schooling and Measurement of the Effects of Uncertainty on College Choice," IZA Discussion Papers 767, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    12. Arthur Lewbel, 1997. "Constructing Instruments for Regressions with Measurement Error when no Additional Data are Available, with an Application to Patents and R&D," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1201-1214, September.
    13. Pedro Carneiro & Karsten T. Hansen & James J. Heckman, 2003. "2001 Lawrence R. Klein Lecture Estimating Distributions of Treatment Effects with an Application to the Returns to Schooling and Measurement of the Effects of Uncertainty on College Choice," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(2), pages 361-422, May.
    14. Manski, Charles F. & Thompson, T. Scott, 1986. "Operational characteristics of maximum score estimation," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 85-108, June.
    15. Lewbel, Arthur, 2000. "Semiparametric qualitative response model estimation with unknown heteroscedasticity or instrumental variables," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 97(1), pages 145-177, July.
    16. Schröder, Carsten & Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 2017. "Revisiting the evidence for cardinal treatment of ordinal variables," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 337-358.
    17. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
    18. Chen, Songnian & Khan, Shakeeb, 2003. "Rates of convergence for estimating regression coefficients in heteroskedastic discrete response models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 117(2), pages 245-278, December.
    19. Lee, Myoung-jae, 1992. "Median regression for ordered discrete response," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 51(1-2), pages 59-77.
    20. repec:ags:stataj:163394 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Florios, Kostas & Skouras, Spyros, 2008. "Exact computation of max weighted score estimators," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 146(1), pages 86-91, September.
    22. Joseph Stiglitz & Amartya K. Sen & Jean-Paul Fitoussi, 2009. "The measurement of economic performance and social progress revisited: Reflections and Overview," Working Papers hal-01069384, HAL.
    23. Richard Williams, 2010. "Fitting heterogeneous choice models with oglm," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 10(4), pages 540-567, December.
    24. Joseph E. Stiglitz & Amartya Sen & Jean-Paul Fitoussi, 2009. "The measurement of economic performance and social progress revisited," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2009-33, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
    25. Timothy N. Bond & Kevin Lang, 2019. "The Sad Truth about Happiness Scales," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 127(4), pages 1629-1640.
    26. Solomon Major, 2012. "Timing Is Everything: Economic Sanctions, Regime Type, and Domestic Instability," International Interactions, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(1), pages 79-110, January.
    27. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
    28. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Happiness Inequality in the United States," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(S2), pages 33-79, June.
    29. 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.
    30. Lewbel, Arthur & Schennach, Susanne M., 2007. "A simple ordered data estimator for inverse density weighted expectations," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 136(1), pages 189-211, January.
    31. Manski, Charles F., 1985. "Semiparametric analysis of discrete response : Asymptotic properties of the maximum score estimator," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 27(3), pages 313-333, March.
    32. 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.
    33. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2004. "How Important is Methodology for the estimates of the determinants of Happiness?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 641-659, July.
    34. Flavio Cunha & James J. Heckman & Salvador Navarro, 2007. "The Identification & Economic Content of Ordered Choice Models with Stochastic Thresholds," Working Papers 200726, Geary Institute, University College Dublin.
    35. Skouras, Spyros, 2003. "An algorithm for computing estimators that optimize step functions," Computational Statistics & Data Analysis, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 349-361, March.
    36. Dolan, Paul & Peasgood, Tessa & White, Mathew, 2008. "Do we really know what makes us happy A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 94-122, February.
    37. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
    38. Horowitz, Joel L, 1992. "A Smoothed Maximum Score Estimator for the Binary Response Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(3), pages 505-531, May.
    39. Richard Easterlin, 2005. "Feeding the Illusion of Growth and Happiness: A Reply to Hagerty and Veenhoven," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 74(3), pages 429-443, December.
    40. repec:eee:econom:v:205:y:2018:i:2:p:488-507 is not listed on IDEAS
    41. Manski, Charles F., 1975. "Maximum score estimation of the stochastic utility model of choice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 3(3), pages 205-228, August.
    42. 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.
    43. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer (ed.), 2013. "Recent Developments in the Economics of Happiness," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 15134, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    ordered-response model; mixed-integer optimization; median regression; subjective well-being;

    JEL classification:

    • C24 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Truncated and Censored Models; Switching Regression Models; Threshold Regression Models
    • C61 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Mathematical Methods; Programming Models; Mathematical and Simulation Modeling - - - Optimization Techniques; Programming Models; Dynamic Analysis
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    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:iza:izadps:dp12152. 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: (Holger Hinte). General contact details of provider: http://www.iza.org .

    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.