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Using memories to assess the intrapersonal comparability of wellbeing reports

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  • Kaiser, Caspar

Abstract

Research on subjective wellbeing typically assumes that responses to survey questions are comparable across respondents and across time. However, if this assumption is violated, standard methods in empirical research may mislead. I address this concern with three contributions. First, I give a theoretical analysis of the extent and direction of bias that may result from violations of this assumption. Second, I propose to use respondents’ stated memories of their past wellbeing to estimate and thereby to correct for differentials in scale use. Third, using the proposed approach, I test whether wellbeing reports are intrapersonally comparable across time. Using BHPS data, I find that the direction in which explanatory variables affect latent satisfaction is typically the same as the direction in which scale use is affected. Unemployment and bereavement appear to have particularly strong effects on scale use. Although discussed in the context of life satisfaction scales, the proposed approach for anchoring response scales is applicable to a wide range of other subjectively reported constructs.

Suggested Citation

  • Kaiser, Caspar, 2020. "Using memories to assess the intrapersonal comparability of wellbeing reports," EconStor Preprints 226218, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:esprep:226218
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    3. Daniel J. Benjamin & Kristen Cooper & Ori Heffetz & Miles S. Kimball, 2023. "From Happiness Data to Economic Conclusions," NBER Working Papers 31727, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Caspar Kaiser, 2022. "Whence the Happiness Revolution? A Book Review of Richard Easterlin’s An Economist’s Lessons on Happiness," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 23(6), pages 3095-3098, August.
    5. Leonard Goff, 2022. "Causal identification with subjective outcomes," Papers 2212.14622, arXiv.org, revised Feb 2023.
    6. Shuo Liu & Nick Netzer, 2020. "Happy times: measuring happiness using response times," ECON - Working Papers 371, Department of Economics - University of Zurich, revised Mar 2023.
    7. Kristen Cooper & Mark Fabian & Christian Krekel, 2023. "New approaches to measuring welfare," Fiscal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 44(2), pages 123-135, June.
    8. Montgomery, Mallory, 2022. "Reversing the gender gap in happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 196(C), pages 65-78.
    9. Marcus Klemm, 2022. "Well-being Changes from Year to Year: A Comparison of Current, Remembered and Predicted Life Satisfaction," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 23(4), pages 1669-1681, April.

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    Keywords

    subjective wellbeing; BHPS; life satisfaction; vignettes; memories; differential item functioning;
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    JEL classification:

    • C25 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions; Probabilities
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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