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

  • Inga Kristoffersen

    (UWA Business School, The University of Western Australia)

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    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.

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    File URL: http://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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    Paper provided by The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics in its series Economics Discussion / Working Papers with number 11-15.

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    Length: 22 pages
    Date of creation: 2011
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:uwa:wpaper:11-15
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    Web page: http://www.business.uwa.edu.au/school/disciplines/economics

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    1. 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, 06.
    2. Ingebjorg 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, 03.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    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, 07.
    6. Luigino Bruni & Robert Sugden, 2007. "The road not taken: how psychology was removed from economics, and how it might be brought back," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(516), pages 146-173, 01.
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