Social Indicators Research

, Volume 105, Issue 3, pp 323–331

Estimating the Reliability of Single-Item Life Satisfaction Measures: Results from Four National Panel Studies


DOI: 10.1007/s11205-011-9783-z

Cite this article as:
Lucas, R.E. & Brent Donnellan, M. Soc Indic Res (2012) 105: 323. doi:10.1007/s11205-011-9783-z


Life satisfaction is often assessed using single-item measures. However, estimating the reliability of these measures can be difficult because internal consistency coefficients cannot be calculated. Existing approaches use longitudinal data to isolate occasion-specific variance from variance that is either completely stable or variance that changes systematically over time. In these approaches, reliable occasion-specific variance is typically treated as measurement error, which would negatively bias reliability estimates. In the current studies, panel data and multivariate latent state-trait models are used to isolate reliable occasion-specific variance from random error and to estimate reliability for scores from single-item life satisfaction measures. Across four nationally representative panel studies with a combined sample size of over 68,000, reliability estimates increased by an average of 16% when the multivariate model was used instead of the more standard univariate longitudinal model.


ReliabilityLife satisfactionSTARTS modelMeasurementLongitudinal analysesPanel studies

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA