Happiness is considered to be an important aspect of human life and this is reflected in a growing interest of social sciences during the past decennia. Happiness research is only possible if happiness can be measured and quantified. The measurement of happiness, more specifically the way observation results are further processed, is discussed in this dissertation, which is intended to be a methodological contribution to happiness research. Happiness in this context is defined as “the degree to which an individual judges the overall quality of his/her life-as-a-whole favorably”. Traditionally, this happiness is measured by simply asking the person to rate it. A frequently used method is to ask a closed question, e.g. “Taking all together, how happy would you say you are ?” and to offer a limited number (3 – 7) of response categories, one of which has to be ticked, e.g. “pretty happy”. In particular such happiness questions with textual response categories, shortly referred to as “verbal scales”, form the object of the investigation presented here. Investigators of happiness are not just interested in individual happiness scores, they are also interested in happiness in communities. In this dissertation we shall refer to “nations”, but our findings are equally applicable to other defined collectivities. Not all individuals are equally happy. With respect to this happiness inequality, we have to distinguish between within-nations and between-nations inequality. To collect information on both, social scientists examine samples from the population or a sub-population, e.g. from all adult citizens. This sampling should be done at random, but in reality this never happens. Nevertheless, we assume that all samples discussed in this study can be considered as if sampling has been at random, since information on the happiness distribution within the population represented by that sample can only be obtained under that assumption.

distribution, happiness, inequality, life satisfaction, measurement, parameter estimation, quantification, scale interval approach
R. Veenhoven (Ruut)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Department of Sociology

Kalmijn, W.M. (2010, December 2). Quantification of Happiness Inequality. Erasmus University Rotterdam. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/21777