Measuring and Monitoring Subjective Well-Being
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Measuring and Monitoring Subjective Well-Being - The German Experience Heinz-Herbert Noll GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences Social Indicators Research Centre (ZSi) Mannheim, Germany www.gesis.org/social-indicators

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Measuring and Monitoring Subjective Well-Being - The German Experience

Heinz-Herbert Noll

GESIS – Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences

Social Indicators Research Centre (ZSi)

Mannheim, Germany

www.gesis.org/social-indicators

Satellite Meeting - Measuring Subjective Well-Being: An Opportunity for National Statistical Offices?

Florence, July 23-24


Situation in Germany:

Strong reluctance of German statistical office (destatis) to collect “subjective information”, e.g. data on Subjective Well-Being; exceptions as yet almost completely restricted to European surveys like, e.g. EU-SILC

 partly due to „division of labour“ in collection and supply of data

Well developed science based data infrastructure beyond official statistics

Long tradition of measuring, monitoring & reporting subjective well- being


  • Science Driven Survey-Data Infrastructure – Two Examples

  • German Welfare Survey

  • - Emerged from large scale project on social Indicators during the 1970s

  • - Strong focus on the measurement of subjective well-being,

  • - Large number of different SWB – measures (incl. Ill-Being)

  • - Survey rounds in 1978, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1990 (East Germany), 1993, 1998

  • More Information: http://www.gesis.org/en/services/data/survey-data/welfare-survey/

  • German Socio-Economic Household Panel Study (SOEP)

    • Longitudinal Survey (Panel)

    • First round in 1984

    • Since then every year

    • East Germany included in 1990

    • Large sample (2006: ca. 11.000 households with more than 20.000 respondents)

    • Complex sample design, includes non-German population

    • Multitude of SWB-measures, among them life satisfaction, several domain satisfactions

      - Personal interviews with each household member 16 years +

      More Information:http://www.diw.de/english/soep/29012.html


Several other important national Survey – Programmes, e.g.

 German General Social Survey (ALLBUS)

 German Ageing Survey  SWB as one of the key topics

International Survey – Programmes (see Noll 2008), eg.

 European Social Survey

 European Quality of Life Survey

 International Social Survey Programme

 World Value Survey / European Values Study




Long Tradition in Reporting on SWB as Part of General Social Reporting

 Datenreport = Most Important and Popular Comprehensive German Social Report

 Since 2nd edition in 1985 joint venture of official statistics (destatis) and academic social research (since 1989: GESIS, WZB)

 Academic part titled „Living Conditions and Subjective Well-Being“; (English Version of „Datenreport 1985“ published in Social Indicators Research, Vol. 19, no 1, 1987)


 Focus on Quality of Life in Terms of Objective Living Conditions and Subjective Well-Being (as well as their interrelations)

 ‚Well-Being‘ = combination of good living conditions and high level of SWB

 goal for policy making


Example from Datenreport 1985: Conditions

„Life satisfaction: past, present, future“


Example Datenreport 1985: Conditions

„Importance of life domains and con-cerns for well-being and satisfaction“


 Latest Edition (12th) of Datenreport = 2008 Conditions

Available for Download at:

www.gesis.org/datenreport/





  • Conclusions from German Experience: Domains“

  •  Official Statistics not needed as basic provider of SWB - data; there are plenty of good quality data on various aspect of SWB since many years

  •  Data provided by statistical offices are not necessarily of better quality than data from other sources

  • Quality of official survey data may suffer from the same kind of problems as non- official survey data, e.g.

  • - biased samples / non-response (if not compulsory)

    • - inappropriate question wordings / formats

    • - inadequate answering scales

    • - problems of comparability or equivalence in international surveys

  •  Major advantage of official surveys are large sample sizes, allowing detailed analysis for small population subgroups, regions etc

  •  Measures of SWB (not only life satisfaction) should though be included into official surveys – e.g. like HBS, LFS, EU-SILC – in order to considerably enrich these surveys and to enhance their analytical potential in various ways


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