Just a phone call away: continuously monitoring life satisfaction in tajikistan

Seitz, William; Azevedo, Joao Pedro (2018). 'Just a Phone Call Away: Continuously Monitoring Life Satisfaction in Tajikistan' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Buenos Aires, Argentina 2018.

Abstract

As mobile technology improves and spreads, continuous phone-based panel surveys are becoming increasingly feasible in developing countries. A set of wellbeing indicators is needed to leverage these new survey designs. This study demonstrates the usefulness and internal consistency of high-frequency subjective wellbeing (SWB) indicators in this setting, and their complementarity with other indicators of wellbeing, such as shocks, per capita income, and a multidimensional index of deprivation. Traditional static measures of SWB are often criticized as potentially confounding objective components of wellbeing with unobserved individual characteristics, such as personality or emotional states, limiting their use in policy making. Using unique data from a monthly panel survey of households spanning two years in a developing country, we show that changes in subjective wellbeing are strongly associated with contemporaneous objective indicators of wellbeing. The results are robust to controlling for time-invariant individual and household characteristics, as well as the timing of interviews. Importantly, the results show that SWB indicators can provide complimentary information about wellbeing that objective wellbeing measures may lack. The results provide evidence that: i) change in SWB measures over time can be an effective summary of a range of objective measures, ii) changes in SWB are more strongly associated with non-monetary shocks and deprivations than with income, and iii) high-frequency panel surveys are well-suited to monitoring wellbeing in dynamic environments where shocks are common.

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