People not living in private households

One population group that may be of high policy interest, but which is not typically covered in household surveys, is people not living in private households. This group includes people living in institutions, including prisons, hospitals or residential care facilities, as well as people with no fixed residence, such as the homeless. These groups raise two issues with respect to the measurement of subjective well-being. The first problem is common to all attempts to collect statistical information on such groups - that such population groups tend to be excluded from standard household survey sample frames. This means that, at a minimum, specific data collection efforts will be required based on a sample frame designed to cover the relevant institutions. In some cases, such as for the homeless, it may be difficult to develop any statistically representative sampling approach at all.

A more significant challenge faced in the measurement of subjective well-being is that many of the people in the relevant groups may not be able to respond on their own behalf. This is particularly the case for people institutionalised for health-related reasons that affect mental functioning (including people with some mental illnesses, or with physical illnesses limiting the ability to communicate, and the very old). In these cases it is not possible to collect information on a person’s subjective well-being. Proxy responses, which might be appropriate for some types of data (income, marital status, age), are not valid with respect to subjective well-being.

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