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The Subjective Wellbeing Scale: How Reasonable is the Cardinality Assumption?

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  • Inga Kristoffersen

    (UWA Business School, The University of Western Australia)

Abstract

This paper empirically investigates the reasonability of assuming subjective wellbeing (SWB) data are cardinal. The inability or reluctance to assume cardinality implies limitations to use of data and methodology, which has been demonstrated to yield potentially biased results. This analysis uses the concept of transitivity to investigate the likely functional form of the SWB reporting function via a second alternative wellbeing measure. Here, data on mental health are used for this purpose. Results indicate that the SWB reporting function cannot deviate strongly from linearity, implying that the cardinality assumption is reasonable in most research contexts. An auxiliary analysis examines the bias that may result from possible nonlinearities in the SWB reporting function, which gives an indication of the potential cost of wrongfully imposing cardinality upon these data.

Suggested Citation

  • Inga Kristoffersen, 2011. "The Subjective Wellbeing Scale: How Reasonable is the Cardinality Assumption?," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 11-15, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwa:wpaper:11-15
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    File URL: https://www.business.uwa.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/1857970/11-15-The-Subjective-Wellbeing-Scale-How-Reasonable-is-the-Cardinality-Assumption.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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. Ingebjørg Kristoffersen, 2010. "The Metrics of Subjective Wellbeing: Cardinality, Neutrality and Additivity," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 86(272), pages 98-123, March.
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    4. Yew‐Kwang Ng, 2008. "Happiness Studies: Ways to Improve Comparability and Some Public Policy Implications," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 84(265), pages 253-266, June.
    5. 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.
    6. van Praag, Bernard M. S., 1991. "Ordinal and cardinal utility : An integration of the two dimensions of the welfare concept," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 50(1-2), pages 69-89, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Frank A. Cowell & Emmanuel Flachaire, 2017. "Inequality with Ordinal Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 84(334), pages 290-321, April.

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