F. Experienced well-being

As noted in the section describing Module C (affect), the gold standard for measuring affect is via the experience sampling method. When this is not possible, the day reconstruction method (DRM) provides a well-tested methodology that produces results consistent with the experience sampling method (Kahneman and Krueger, 2006). Although it is not possible to implement the DRM in general household surveys, it is possible in time-use surveys. This module provides approaches to implementing the measurement of affect in time-use diaries. Because of the value that time-use diary information on subjective well-being adds, and because information on affect yesterday from general household surveys is not a good substitute15 for measures like those collected through the DRM, it is strongly recommended that information on experienced well-being be collected in time-use surveys whenever possible.

The experienced well-being module presents two approaches to measuring subjective well-being in time-use diaries. The first is essentially the implementation of the DRM used in the 2011 American Time Use Survey (ATUS). This provides aggregate information similar to the full DRM, but restricts the information collected to only three diary episodes per respondent. This helps reduce the respondent burden and the amount of interviewer time required per respondent, which is otherwise relatively high with the full DRM. The data collected using this method is exceptionally rich, as it involves collecting information on a number of different moods and feelings. As with the affect questions in Module C, it uses a 0-10 scale. This is longer than the 0-6 scale currently used in the ATUS, but is preferred for reasons of consistency with other scales used in these guidelines and because the (relatively limited) literature on the subject tends to support the choice of the longer scale (Kroh, 2006; Cummins and Gullone, 2000).

An alternative to the DRM is also included in the experienced well-being module. This is based on the “unpleasant/pleasant” (“tres desagreable/tres agreable”) approach used by the INSEE in the Enquete Emploi du temps 2010. Although the INSEE approach captures less information than the DRM - the measure used to collect information on affective state is uni-dimensional - it does have two significant advantages. First, it is a self-complete question that can be included on the diary form. This significantly reduces interviewer time and the associated costs, and does not add much to the time required for respondents to fill in the diary (INSEE, 2010). Because of this, information can be collected on the respondent’s affective state during all diary episodes, allowing more comprehensive analysis. The self-completed nature of the question also makes it potentially suitable for inclusion in “light” time-use surveys that rely more heavily on respondents to self-complete their diary. The second point in favour of the INSEE approach is that analysis of the available data suggests that the results are broadly comparable with results from the DRM when these are reduced to a uni-dimensional measure such as the “U-index” or affect balance.

There is currently relatively little basis to assess which method is preferable overall. The DRM is better grounded in the research literature, with good evidence of its validity, and provides a more detailed view of the different moods people experience. On the other hand, the INSEE approach appears to manage adequate data quality combined with significantly lower respondent and interviewer burden, as well as detail on a complete sample of episodes. Resolving the issue of which approach is to be preferred will require further analysis, drawing on data derived from both methodologies. For this reason, both approaches are detailed in the experienced well-being module.

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