Causal direction in a model of life satisfaction: The top-down/bottom-up controversy
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- Scherpenzeel, A. & Saris, W. Soc Indic Res (1996) 38: 161. doi:10.1007/BF00300457
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In social indicator studies, there is some controversy about the causal direction between subjective well-being and domain-specific satisfaction variables; a “top-down” approach is distinguished from a “bottom-up” approach. In this paper, the effects in both directions are estimated in a model with reciprocal relationships as a starting model. It can then be determined which of the two effects for each pair of variables is strongest and which effect can be ignored in the model. This procedure is applied to four different datasets collected in the Netherlands, and to models with different exogenous variables. Comparing the best solutions obtained for all different models and datasets, it is shown that the direction of the effects is not consistent across models and datasets. We have to conclude that it is impossible to obtain a stable solution for the model of subjective well-being in this study. As a consequence, we also have to conclude that the results from other studies cannot be trusted in which the causal order in a model of subjective well-being is tested.
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