A major impulse for the study of subjective well-being has been the question how policy affects the distribution of subjective well-being within a country. A natural approach to learning about policy effects is to compare policies across countries and relate these to observed differences in well-being. Most of the work on international comparisons of well-being has been based on global satisfaction measures, like single questions inviting respondents to rate their happiness on a numerical or verbal scale. This work has produced widely conflicting findings. More recently, experienced well-being has been proposed as an alternative measure. Both approaches to the measurement of well-being are in principle vulnerable to Differential Item Functioning, particularly when used to compare different countries. We propose a thorough analysis of the properties of the different well-being measures and in particular how anchoring vignettes can be used to improve the comparability of well-being measures across population groups and across countries. To that end we will conduct several experiments in two population representative Internet panels: the American Life Panel (ALP) in the U.S. and the Longitudinal Internet Studies for the Social sciences (LISS) panel in The Netherlands.

Public Health Relevance

There is ample evidence that well-being is related to health outcomes, while subjective well-being is also an important outcome in its own right. A better understanding of how to measure subjective well-being and how alternative measures may lead to different conclusions will aid policy decision making.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZAG1-ZIJ-1 (M1))
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Nielsen, Lisbeth
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Rand Corporation
Santa Monica
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