Adjusting for Scale-Use Heterogeneity in Self-Reported Well-Being

59 Pages Posted: 5 Oct 2023 Last revised: 14 Dec 2023

See all articles by Daniel J. Benjamin

Daniel J. Benjamin

Anderson School of Management; Human Genetics Department, David Geffen School of Medicine; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Kristen B. Cooper

Gordon College

Ori Heffetz

Cornell University - S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management; The Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics and Center for Rationality; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Miles S. Kimball

University of Colorado Boulder; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; Center for Economic and Social Research, USC; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jiannan Zhou

Shandong University - School of Economics

Date Written: December 11, 2023

Abstract

Analyses of self-reported-well-being (SWB) survey data may be confounded if people use response scales differently. We use calibration questions, designed to have the same objective answer across respondents, to measure scale-use heterogeneity, both dimensional (i.e., specific to an SWB dimension) and general (common across questions). In a sample of ~3,350 MTurkers, we find substantial such heterogeneity that is correlated with demographics. We develop a theoretical framework and econometric approaches to quantify and adjust for this heterogeneity. We apply our new estimators in several standard SWB applications. Our framework sheds light on when and how adjusting for general-scale-use heterogeneity changes results.

Keywords: happiness, life satisfaction, subjective well-being, survey questions, response scale, scale-use adjustment, calibration questions

JEL Classification: C83, D60, D63, D90, D91, I14, I31

Suggested Citation

Benjamin, Daniel J. and Benjamin, Daniel J. and Cooper, Kristen B. and Heffetz, Ori and Kimball, Miles S. and Zhou, Jiannan, Adjusting for Scale-Use Heterogeneity in Self-Reported Well-Being (December 11, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4568587 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4568587

Daniel J. Benjamin

Anderson School of Management ( email )

110 Westwood Plaza
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Human Genetics Department, David Geffen School of Medicine ( email )

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Kristen B. Cooper

Gordon College ( email )

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Ori Heffetz (Contact Author)

Cornell University - S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management ( email )

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The Hebrew University of Jerusalem - Department of Economics and Center for Rationality

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HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~heffetz

Miles S. Kimball

University of Colorado Boulder ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.colorado.edu/Economics/people/faculty/kimball.html

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Jiannan Zhou

Shandong University - School of Economics ( email )

School of Economics, Shandong University
No. 27 Shanda Nanlu
Jinan, Shandong 250100
China

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