OECD Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being

OECD Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being
What are these Guidelines?
• The Guidelines provide advice on the collection and use of measures of
subjective well-being
• They are intended to provide support for national statistical offices and
other producers of subjective well-being data in designing, collecting, and
publishing measures of subjective wellbeing
• The Guidelines cover:
Concept and validity
Methodological issues
Best practice in measuring subjective well-being
The output and analysis of subjective well-being measures
Prototype question modules on subjective well-being
What is subjective well-being?
“Good mental states, including all of the various evaluations,
positive and negative, that people make of their lives, and the
affective reactions of people to their experiences.”
Why have these guidelines been produced?
• It is increasingly recognised that it is
important to go beyond monetary
measures, such as GDP, in measuring
the progress of societies
• Ultimately, it is well-being that is the
focus of policy
• People’s subjective perceptions,
evaluations, and experiences are a
crucial component of overall wellbeing
Why have these guidelines been produced?
• The Sen/Stiglitz/Fitoussi commission identified subjective well-being as a
key element of quality of life for national statistical offices to report on:
Recommendation 1: Measures of subjective well-being provide key
information about people’s quality of life. Statistical offices should
incorporate questions to capture people’s life evaluations, hedonic
experiences and priorities in their own surveys
Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. Stiglitz, Sen, Fitoussi et al (2009)
• For official measures of subjective well-being to be useful it is essential
they are collected in a consistent manner
– To facilitate comparisons
– To provide a common baseline for developing better questions
How are the guidelines intended to be used?
• The Guidelines are intended as a resource for data producers, not as a
prescriptive standard
– A core question module is identified to provide the basis for a common international set
of reference questions
– Additional question modules on life evaluation, affect, eudaimonia, domain evaluations,
and experienced well-being are intended as a
resource for data
producers in developing their own
questionnaires that best meet
their needs
Conclusions and recommendations
• There is a large body of evidence on the validity and reliability of measures
of subjective well-being
– Although subject to some important methodological limitations, there is no case for
considering measures of subjective well-being “beyond the scope” of official statistics
– Official measures of subjective well-being should be collected – possibly as
experimental data series
• Measures of subjective well-being are subject to a number of
methodological challenges, but:
– Consistency in measurement can address many of these
– National statistical agencies are in a unique position to improve the evidence base on
many of the outstanding issues by collecting high-quality data
• The Guidelines provide advice on best practice including:
Target population
Frequency and duration of enumeration
Sample size and survey mode
Choice and placement of questions
What is next?
• The Guidelines are do not provide the “final word” on measuring
subjective well-being
• The evidence base on measures of subjective well-being can be expected to
improve dramatically over the next few years – particularly as better
quality data becomes available through national statistical offices collecting
the measures outlined in the Guidelines
• The OECD is planning to review progress on the measurement of
subjective well-being over the next few years with a view to deciding:
– Whether the Guidelines need revising
– Whether it is possible and desirable to move towards a greater degree of international
• During 2013 and 2014 the OECD will be actively supporting the uptake of
the Guidelines with workshops held in Europe, America, and the AsiaPacific regions