Is It Possible to Compare Life Satisfaction Around the World?

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Background

It is important to know the determinants of life satisfaction and well-being across nations of the world. To provide valid data for ranking of well-being, it is necessary to correct for cultural differences in how people answer subjective questions.

Goals

To address the issue of comparability of response scales across countries, researchers will administer life satisfaction vignettes to respondents in about 120 countries over the course of four years providing data for approximately 120,000 respondents all over the world. In addition, repeat vignettes will be placed into a subset of those countries in the fifth year.

Researchers will use these vignettes in combination with self-reports on life satisfaction and an array of individual background variables to correct for differences in response styles. This will allow them to characterize not just the actual level of satisfaction across the countries of the world, but also the distribution of satisfaction among residents of the country. A third step will be to analyze the relation between overall life satisfaction with other economic and societal factors present in sampled countries.

Research Staff

James P. Smith, principal investigator