ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Validating measurements of subjective well-being in EU-SILC - experiences from pre-tests in Statistics Finland

Merja Kallio-Peltoniemi

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 1 - Law Building, Room 024
Date: 2012-07-11 03:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Last modified: 2012-06-06


Over the past few years, there have been ongoing discussions (e.g. The ”GDP and beyond” initiative; Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Comission) about measurements of social progress and well-being. There is a strong demand for indicators that complement GDP in order to support policy decisions with more comprehensive information. This includes subjective measures of well-being. At the European Statistical System (ESS) the EU-SILC (EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions) is being developed as a core instrument for measuring the quality of life dimensions not already covered by other statistical sources. The aim is to get comparable data from all European countries.

This paper addresses the issues concerning conceptualization, questionnaire design and question formulation, and pre-testing of Finnish questions on subjective well-being in the EU-SILC ad hoc module 2013. The EU-SILC questions on subjective well-being are mostly derived from other international surveys and indicators established on the basis that they have been used before in another survey. In that sense, the questions have been tested or at least observed to be functional/reliable. However, it seems that the questions included in the EU-SILC have slight differences from the original ones, e.g. they have different response scales/slight alterations in wordings etc., which may cause challenges when comparing survey results. In addition, the subjective well-being questions are very sensitive to context effects.

First, the paper discusses the EU-SILC’s harmonization process with relation to Finnish questionnaire design process. Second, challenges of the translation process into Finnish language are discussed respectively. The aim is to present behavior coding and cognitive pre-test results of questions on subjective well-being and demonstrate how the respondents understand the questions. The respondent’s understanding of the EU-SILC questions are then compared to the theoretical background and definitions of the subjective well-being. The pre-test results and their outcomes are discussed from the conceptual (do the respondent’s perspectives meet the conceptual framework of indicators), validation (do the questions measure what they are intended to measure) and interpretational (is it possible to formulate more valid and relevant questions?) point of view.