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Are Americans Really Less Happy With Their Incomes?

Author

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  • Arie Kapteyn
  • James P. Smith
  • Arthur Van Soest

Abstract

Recent economic research on international comparisons of subjective well-being suffers from several important biases due to the potential incomparability of response scales within and across countries. In this paper the authors concentrate on self-reported satisfaction with income in two countries: The Netherlands and the U.S. The comparability problem is addressed by using anchoring vignettes. They find that in the raw data, Americans appear decidedly less satisfied with their income than the Dutch. It turns out however that after response scale adjustment based on vignettes the distribution of satisfaction in the two countries is essentially identical. In addition, they find that the within-country cross-sectional effect of income on satisfaction — a key parameter in the recent debate in the economic literature — is significantly under-estimated especially in the US when differences in response scales are not taken into account.

Suggested Citation

  • Arie Kapteyn & James P. Smith & Arthur Van Soest, 2011. "Are Americans Really Less Happy With Their Incomes?," Working Papers 858, RAND Corporation.
  • Handle: RePEc:ran:wpaper:858
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Kapteyn, Arie & Smith, James P. & van Soest, Arthur, 2009. "Life Satisfaction," IZA Discussion Papers 4015, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    2. Didier Fouarge & Trudie Schils & Andries de Grip, 2013. "Why do low-educated workers invest less in further training?," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(18), pages 2587-2601, June.
    3. Knott, R. & Lorgelly, P. & Black, N. & Hollingsworth, B., 2016. "Differential item functioning in the EQ-5D: An exploratory analysis using anchoring vignettes," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 16/14, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    4. Eric Bonsang & Arthur Soest, 2012. "Satisfaction with Job and Income Among Older Individuals Across European Countries," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, pages 227-254.
    5. Christoph Wunder, 2008. "Adaptation to Income over Time: A Weak Point of Subjective Well-Being," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 130, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    6. Kapteyn, Arie & Wah, Saw Htay, 2016. "Challenges to small and medium-size businesses in Myanmar: What are they and how do we know?," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, pages 1-22.
    7. Carsten Sauer & Stefan Liebig & Katrin Auspurg & Thomas Hinz & Andy Donaubauer & Jürgen Schupp, 2009. "A Factorial Survey on the Justice of Earnings within the SOEP-Pretest 2008," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 238, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    8. Heijke, J.A.M. & Meng, C.M. & Ramaekers, G.W.M., 2002. "An investigation into the role of human capital competences and their pay-off," ROA Research Memorandum 3E, Maastricht University, Research Centre for Education and the Labour Market (ROA).
    9. repec:eee:socmed:v:190:y:2017:i:c:p:247-255 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Berggren, Niclas & Nilsson, Therese & Bjørnskov, Christian, 2015. "What Aspects of Society Affect the Quality of Life of a Minority? Global Evidence from the New Gay Happiness Index," Working Paper Series 1101, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    11. Carsten Sauer & Katrin Auspurg & Thomas Hinz & Stefan Liebig & Jürgen Schupp, 2014. "Methods Effects in Factorial Surveys: An Analysis of Respondents' Comments, Interviewers' Assessments, and Response Behavior," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 629, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
    12. Andrew M. Jones; Nigel Rice, Silvana Robone; & Nigel Rice; & Silvana Robone:, 2012. "A comparison of parametric and non-parametric adjustments using vignettes for self-reported data," Health, Econometrics and Data Group (HEDG) Working Papers 12/10, HEDG, c/o Department of Economics, University of York.
    13. Bert Van Landeghem, 2012. "Panel Conditioning and Self-Reported Satisfaction: Evidence from International Panel Data and Repeated Cross-Sections," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 484, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    happiness; life satisfaction; vignettes; reporting bias;

    JEL classification:

    • I30 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General
    • J30 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - General

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