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If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands! Survey design and the analysis of satisfaction

Number: 16
Year: 2008
Author(s): Gabriella Conti, Stephen Pudney
Keywords: satisfaction,measurement error,questionnaire design,BHPS
Surveys differ in the way they measure satisfaction and happiness, so comparative research findings are vulnerable to distortion by survey design differences. We examine this using the British Household Panel Survey, exploiting its changes in question design and parallel use of different interview modes. We find significant biases in econometric results, particularly for gender differences in attitudes to the wage and hours of work. Results suggest that the common empirical finding that women care less than men about their wage and more about their hours may be an artifact of survey design rather than a real behavioural difference.

Gabriella Conti

University of Chicago, Department of Economics and Universita di Napoli Federico II


Stephen Pudney

University of Essex, Institute for Social and Economic Research




Keywords: Satisfaction, measurement error, questionnaire design, BHPS

JEL codes: C23, C25, C81, J28

Download: The paper may be downloaded here.