Embedding as a pitfall for survey-based welfare indicators: Evidence from an Experiment

Prof. Dr. Ronnie Schöb




Prof. Dr. Ronnie Schöb is professor of International Public Economics at the Freie Universität Berlin. He studied economics at the University of Munich, where he received his PhD in 1994. Before coming to the Freie Universität Berlin in 2007, he taught at the University of Essex, UK (1994-95), the University of Western Ontario, Canada (2000-01), and the University of Magdeburg (2001-07). His research interests are in the area of happiness economics, labor economics, reforming the welfare state, optimal taxation, environmental and resource economics. He has published several books and articles in leading economics journals such as the Economic Journal, European Economic Review, Economics Letters, Oxford Economic Papers, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management and Scandinavian Journal of Economics and is co-editor of FinanzArchiv/Public Finance Analysis, the oldest public finance journal. Since 2015, he is a member of the Advisory Council to the German Federal Ministry of Finance.




How can we assess the welfare of a society, its evolution over time and predict its change due to particular policy interventions? One way is to use survey-based welfare measures such as the OECD Better Life Index. It invites people to weight a variety of quality of life indicators according to their individual preferences. 11 broad dimensions aggregate these indicators. Our experiment shows that people do not provide consistent ratings when the embedding of the same indicators in dimensions is varied. Subjects also do not adjust the rating of an equally named dimension if the embedded set of indicators changes. These results show that survey-based measures such as the Better Life Index suffer from strong embedding effects and hence fail to measure citizens’ true preferences. Embedding thus opens a gateway to manipulating survey-based welfare measures.


2017年9月6日 星期三 10:30―12:00 新葡萄京官网8455241会议室

10:30―12:00,September 6, 2017,Wednesday,Room 241,School of Government

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