Pooling time series based on slightly different questions about the same topic: Forty years of survey research on happiness and life satisfaction in the Netherlands

T De Jonge, Lidia Arends, WM Kalmijn, R Veenhoven

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Survey research on subjective wellbeing in The Netherlands started in the early 1970s. The time series happiness and life satisfaction that have emerged since then are unfortunately based on slightly different survey items of which one part uses verbal response scales and another part uses numerical response scales. The diversity of the survey items and a number of other measurement issues, such as the effects of changes in survey mode, hamper comparison over time and make it difficult to establish whether life became any better over the last forty years. These problems can be tackled using the recently developed Reference Distribution Method with which responses to equivalent but not identical survey questions can be pooled to obtain long, consistent time series. We applied the Reference Distribution method to pool time series of happiness and life satisfaction. We conclude that in the past 40 years the Dutch have become slightly happier and satisfied with their lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)863-891
Number of pages29
JournalSocial Indicators Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2015

Research programs

  • EMC NIHES-01-66-01

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