, Volume 74, Issue 2, pp 327-348

The Divergent Meanings of Life Satisfaction: Item Response Modeling of the Satisfaction with Life Scale in Greenland and Norway

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Abstract

Cultural differences in response to the Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS) items is investigated. Data were fit to a mixed Rasch model in order to identify latent classes of participants in a combined sample of Norwegians (N = 461) and Greenlanders (N = 180). Initial analyses showed no mean difference in life satisfaction between the two subsamples. After transforming the ordinal raw scores into interval scales while simultaneously controlling for response bias, different results appeared. First, approximately 80% of the participants in the Greenlandic subsample fit a latent class with a large degree of random responding to the SWLS. Second, relative to the Norwegians, more Greenlanders were using extreme categories in responding to the SWLS. After statistically controlling for this tendency, Norwegians were in general more satisfied with their lives than Greenlanders. Third, Greenlanders who belonged to one specific latent class were more satisfied than their Norwegian counterparts. A salient feature of this class was the relative unwillingness of respondents to change the circumstances of their lives if they were given such an opportunity. The above results are a reminder of the care that must be used in analyzing survey data across cultures. The analytical strategy applied in the article offers an improved approach to handling such data.