Subjective well-being: Adult South Africans’ life satisfaction (2008-2014)

Type Working Paper - SALDRU Working Paper Number 177 and NIDS Discussion Paper 2016/4
Title Subjective well-being: Adult South Africans’ life satisfaction (2008-2014)
Issue 177
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
This discussion paper examines subjective well-being using the National Income Dynamics Study. The survey is an individual level panel survey, with data collected biannually, with 4 waves available, from 2008-2015. The survey is particularly rich, and in addition to economic measures of well-being, it includes individual level data on subjective well-being. Subjective well-being is measured by asking respondents to rate their level of life satisfaction, at the point of being interviewed, and to think about how their current level of life satisfaction relates to their level of satisfaction historically. Kahneman and Kreuger (2005) report that “while various measures of well-being are useful for some purposes, it is important to recognize that subjective well-being measures features of individuals’ perceptions of their experiences, not their utility as economists typically conceive of it. Those perceptions are a more accurate gauge of actual feelings if they are reported closer to the time of, and in direct reference to, the actual experience.” Therefore, studying subjective well-being is worth pursuing, as actual feelings are a relevant gauge of an individual’s life satisfaction. These perceptions may be distorted – but are arguably the best measure of how an individual’s experience of the world at a given point in time is translated into well-being.

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