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Challenges in Constructing a Survey-Based Well-Being Index

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Listed:
  • Daniel J. Benjamin
  • Kristen Cooper
  • Ori Heffetz
  • Miles S. Kimball

Abstract

Many in both government and academia are showing renewed interest in developing new measures of national well-being. A new measure that goes “beyond GDP” to comprehensively capture non-market goods could be a useful supplement to traditional economic indicators for guiding policy and more accurately tracking welfare. But how should national well-being be conceptualized in theory? How could it be measured in practice? How could it be constructed in a systematic and politically neutral way? These questions should be approached by economists with the same level of care that has been taken in the theoretical and practical development of GDP. In this short paper, we focus on one conceptual framework (Benjamin, Heffetz, Kimball, and Szembrot, 2014), which uses self-reported responses to subjective well-being (SWB) and stated preference (SP) survey questions to construct an index of well-being. We briefly review the framework and highlight challenges in the first two steps a government agency would need to take before conducting the SWB and SP surveys: (1) formulating a set of aspects of well-being that is theoretically valid and can be measured accurately via surveys; and (2) choosing and interpreting the surveys’ response scales.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel J. Benjamin & Kristen Cooper & Ori Heffetz & Miles S. Kimball, 2017. "Challenges in Constructing a Survey-Based Well-Being Index," NBER Working Papers 23111, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23111
    Note: AG CH EFG LE LS PE POL
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Fleurbaey, Marc & Blanchet, Didier, 2013. "Beyond GDP: Measuring Welfare and Assessing Sustainability," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199767199.
    2. Angus Deaton & Arthur A. Stone, 2016. "Understanding context effects for a measure of life evaluation: how responses matter," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(4), pages 861-870.
    3. Kelvin J. Lancaster, 1966. "A New Approach to Consumer Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74, pages 132-132.
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    Cited by:

    1. Clemens Hetschko & Louisa von Reumont & Ronnie Schöb, 2017. "Embedding as a Pitfall for Survey-Based Welfare Indicators: Evidence from an Experiment," CESifo Working Paper Series 6419, CESifo Group Munich.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C43 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods: Special Topics - - - Index Numbers and Aggregation
    • C83 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Survey Methods; Sampling Methods
    • D11 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Theory
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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