Advertisement

Social Indicators Research

, Volume 129, Issue 1, pp 13–27 | Cite as

The Impact of Scale Transformations on National Subjective Well-Being Scores

  • Cassondra BatzEmail author
  • Scott Parrigon
  • Louis Tay
Article

Abstract

Nation-level subjective well-being (SWB) indicators (e.g., happiness and life satisfaction) have received increased interest among researchers and policy makers. This increased interest has led to questions about the measurement and comparability of SWB scores. In this paper, we examined the comparability of scores derived from scale transformations (e.g., the “linear stretch method”): a procedure that places SWB scales with different scale points (e.g., 3-points, 4-points) on a common metric. Controlling for nation-level and temporal trends, our results reveal that scale transformations potentially lead to biases for both happiness and life satisfaction scales. Moreover, these potential biases may affect substantive research. This is illustrated when we demonstrate that scale transformations may substantially attenuate the relation between national Gross Domestic Product per capita and happiness. Implications of these findings and limitations of the current study are discussed.

Keywords

Subjective well-being Measurement Scale transformations Measurement equivalence 

References

  1. Abdel-Khalek, A. M. (2006). Measuring happiness with a single-item scale. Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal, 34(2), 139–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Arampatzi, E., Burger, M. J., & Veenhoven, R. (2015). Financial distress and happiness of employees in times of economic crisis. Applied Economic Letters, 22(3), 173–179.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. de Jonge, T., Veenhoven, R., & Arends, L. (2014). Homogenizing responses to different survey questions on the same topic: Proposal of a scale homogenization method using a reference distribution. Social Indicators Research, 117(1), 275–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542–575.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55(1), 34–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Diener, E., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2002). Will money increase subjective well-being? A literature review and guide to needed research. Social Indicators Research, 57(2), 119–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Beyond Money. Psychological Science in the Public Interest (Wiley-Blackwell), 5(1), 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Diener, E., Inglehart, R., & Tay, L. (2013a). Theory and validity of life satisfaction scales. Social Indicators Research, 112(3), 497–527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diener, E., Tay, L., & Oishi, S. (2013b). Rising income and the subjective well-being of nations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(2), 267–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Easterlin, R. A. (1974). Does economic growth improve the human lot? In P. A. David & M. W. Reder (Eds.), Nations and households in economic growth (pp. 89–125). New York: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Easterlin, R. A. (1995). Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all? Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 27(1), 35–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Easterlin, Richard. A. (2005). Feeding the illusion of growth and happiness: A reply to Hagerty and Veenhoven. Social Indicators Research, 74(3), 429–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Extremera, N., & Fernandez-Berrocal, P. (2013). The subjective happiness scale: Translation and preliminary psychometric evaluation of a Spanish version. Social Indicators Research, 119(1), 473–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fischer, R., & Boer, D. (2011). What is more important for national well-being: money or autonomy? A meta-analysis of well-being, burnout, and anxiety across 63 societies. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101(1), 164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fischer, R., & Van de Vliert, E. (2011). Does climate undermine subjective well-being? A 58-nation study. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37(8), 1031–1041.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2002). What can economists learn from happiness research? Journal of Economic Literature, 40(2), 402–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Graham, C. (2005). Insights on the development from the economics of happiness. World Economics, 6(3), 41–55.Google Scholar
  18. Hagerty, M. R., & Veenhoven, R. (2003). Wealth and happiness revisited- growing national income does go with greater happiness. Social Indicator Research, 64(1), 1–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Inglehart, R., Foa, R., Peterson, C., & Welzel, C. (2008). Development, freedom and rising happiness: A global perspective 1981–2006. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3(4), 264–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Judge, T. A., & Kammeyer-Mueller, J. D. (2011). Happiness as a societal measure. Academy of Management Perspectives, 25(1), 30–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kalmijn, W., Arends, L., & Veenhoven, R. (2010). Happiness scale interval study. Methodological considerations. Social Indicators Research, 102(3), 497–515.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Liao, P. (2013). More happy or less unhappy? Comparison of the balanced and unbalanced designs for the response scale of general happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(6), 1407–1423.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lim, H. E. (2008). The use of different happiness rating scales: Bias and comparison problem? Social Indicators Research, 87(2), 259–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. National Research Council. (2013). Subjective well-being: Measuring happiness, suffering, and other dimensions of experience. Washington: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  25. OECD. (2013). How’s life? 2013: Measuring well-being. Paris: OECD Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ovaska, T., & Takashima, R. (2010). Does a rising tide lift all the boats? Explaining the national inequality of happiness. Journal of Economic Interest, 44(1), 205–223.Google Scholar
  27. Pinheiro, J., & Bates, D. (2000). Mixed-effects models in S and S-Plus. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pinheiro, J., Bates, D., DebRoy, S., Sarkar, D., & R Core Team. (2015). Nlme: Linear and nonlinear mixed effects models. R package version 3.1-119.Google Scholar
  29. Development Core Team R. (2015). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.Google Scholar
  30. Schwarz, N. (1999). Self-reports: How the questions shape the answers. American Psychologist, 5(2), 93–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schwarz, N., & Strack, F. (1999). Reports of subjective well-being: Judgmental processes and their methodological implications. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 61–84). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  32. Steel, P., & Ones, D. S. (2002). Personality and happiness: A national-level analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83(3), 767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Tay, L., Herian, M. N., & Diener, E. (2014). Detrimental effects of corruption on subjective well-being: Whether, how, and when. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 6(1), 751–759.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Veenhoven, R. (1995). World database of happiness. Social Indicators Research, 34(3), 299–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Veenhoven, R. (2004). World database of happiness: Continuous register of research on subjective appreciation of life. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/8683.
  36. Veenhoven, R. (2009). World database of happiness tool for dealing with the ‘Data-Deluge’. Psihologijske teme, 18(2), 221–246.Google Scholar
  37. Veenhoven, R. (2014). World Database of Happiness, [Data Set]. Retrieved from http://worlddatabaseofhappiness.eur.nl.
  38. Veenhoven, R., & Vergunst, F. (2014). The Easterlin illusion: Economic growth does go with greater happiness. International Journal of Happiness and Development, 1(4), 311–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. World Bank (2014). GDP per capita (current US$). Retrieved from http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports/tableview.aspx.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Industrial-Organizational PsychologyPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations