Happiness Quantified: A Satisfaction Calculus Approach

By Bernard Van Praag; Ada Ferrer-I-Carbonell | Go to book overview
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Analysis of Income Satisfaction

In the previous chapter we surveyed our instruments, namely question modules, and we explained what could be done with those instruments. In this chapter we start the empirical analysis by studying income satisfaction. We have seen that there is more than one way to tap information from respondents. We are especially interested in whether the different question modules will yield comparable and similar results. We shall study five methods that look different but which appear to yield roughly identical results. This chapter deals with methodology, but simultaneously we shall utilize our empirical results, derived from German and British data, to define and assess family-equivalence scales. In this way we introduce the reader to the methodology, that we will use throughout this book.

If one is interested in the question of how satisfied someone is with his or her income, the most sensible thing to do is to ask him or her. There are various modalities. You may do it in face-to-face interviews, by phone, or by mail. From experience, we prefer a situation where the respondent feels as anonymous as possible. One has to avoid 'steering' the respondent. If somebody gets the idea that in answering that he or she is unsatisfied the direct or indirect effect will be an increase in his or her income, we may safely conclude that many respondents will give a biased answer. They will exaggerate their dissatisfaction. It is to be preferred that respondents fill out a multi-purpose questionnaire; by including income as one of many subjects we reduce the risk that individuals will respond strategically on income questions. This is best realized by asking a whole battery of questions on various non-related subjects. Examples are the German and British data sets we use in this book.

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