The Impact of Scale Transformations on National Subjective Well-Being Scores
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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.
KeywordsSubjective well-being Measurement Scale transformations Measurement equivalence
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