Happy Times: Measuring Happiness Using Response Times

University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 371, Revised version

81 Pages Posted: 13 Jan 2021 Last revised: 3 Apr 2023

See all articles by Shuo Liu

Shuo Liu

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management

Nick Netzer

University of Zurich

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 31, 2023

Abstract

Surveys that measure subjective states like happiness or preferences often generate discrete ordinal data. Ordered response models, which are commonly used to analyze such data, suffer from a fundamental identification problem. Their conclusions depend on unjustified assumptions about the distribution of a latent variable. In this paper, we propose using survey response times to solve that problem. Response times contain information about the distribution of the latent variable even among subjects who give the same survey response, through a chronometric effect. Using an online survey, we test and verify the existence of the chronometric effect. We then provide theoretical conditions under which group differences in happiness or other variables are detectable
based on response time data without making distributional assumptions. In our survey, we find evidence supporting the assumptions of traditional ordered response models for some common survey questions but not for others.

Keywords: Surveys, ordinal data, response times, non-parametric identification

JEL Classification: C14, D60, D91, I31

Suggested Citation

Liu, Shuo and Netzer, Nick, Happy Times: Measuring Happiness Using Response Times (March 31, 2023). University of Zurich, Department of Economics, Working Paper No. 371, Revised version, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3752581 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3752581

Shuo Liu (Contact Author)

Peking University - Guanghua School of Management ( email )

Peking University
Beijing, Beijing 100871
China

Nick Netzer

University of Zurich ( email )

Rämistrasse 71
Zürich, CH-8006
Switzerland

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