How are you? How’s it going? What’s up? What’s happening? Nudging people to tell us how they really are

By: Carlsson, Fredrik (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University) ; Kataria, Mitesh (Department of Economics, School of Business, Economics and Law, Göteborg University)
We investigate a novel approach to reduce measurement error in subjective well-being (SWB) data. Using a between-subject design, half of the subjects are asked to promise to answer the survey questions truthfully in an attempt to make them commit to truth-telling. This allows us to experimentally test whether making a promise affects their responses. We find a statistically significant difference between mean stated well-being between the two groups (with and without a promise, although the effect sizes are rather small). We then investigate to what extent the differences in stated well-being also affect the inference from regressions models on the determinants of SWB. We find important differences in terms of size and statistical significance of the coefficients between the two models, despite the small effect sizes on the dependent stated well-being variable.
Keywords: measurement error; social desirability; subjective well-being; truth-telling
JEL: C90 I30

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