The Importance of ‘Domain Importance’ for Happiness Economics

  • Tim Tiefenbach
  • Florian Kohlbacher
Part of the Creative Economy book series (CRE)


In happiness economics, subjective well-being is usually modeled as a unidimensional construct measuring global life satisfaction or global happiness. Most studies do not account for the fact that global life satisfaction and happiness are aggregates of satisfaction/happiness with different life domains. Only a few studies have analyzed the relationship between the overall level of subjective well-being and the satisfaction level in different life domains. However, although happiness economists usually admit that happiness “means different things for different people” (Frey and Stutzer 2002, p. 3), they emphasize that for “many issues, a common metric of the ‘overall evaluation of life’ is suitable” (ibid., p. 28). Thus, they not only think that a detailed analysis of different domain satisfactions is unnecessary, they also implicitly work under the assumption that the importance ranking of different life domains is the same across all individuals. However, this assumption is not realistic, as the importance of life domains may differ greatly among individuals, which we will show in this chapter. There also is preliminary evidence to this effect from quality of life research (e.g. Hsieh 2004, 2012), although the existing studies suffer from severe limitations, such as non-representative samples of limited size.


Life Satisfaction Life Domain Importance Rating Temporary Employee Domain Satisfaction 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Azen, R., & Budescu, D. V. (2003). The dominance analysis approach for comparing predictors in multiple regression. Psychological Methods, 8, 129–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Becchetti, L., Corrado, L., & Rossetti, F. (2011). The heterogeneous effects of income changes on happiness. Social Indicators Research, 104(3), 387–406. doi: 10.1007/s11205-010-9750-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Budescu, D. V. (1993). Dominance analysis: A new approach to the problem of relative importance of predictors in multiple regression. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 542–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Clark, A., Etile, F., Postel-Vinay, F., Senik, C., & Van der Straeten, K. (2005). Heterogeneity in reported well-being: Evidence from twelve European countries*. Economic Journal, 115(502), C118. doi: 10.1111/j.0013-0133.2005.00983.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cummins, R. A. (1996). The domains of life satisfaction: An attempt to order chaos. Social Indicators Research, 38(3), 303–328. doi: 10.1007/BF00292050.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Delle Fave, A., Brdar, I., Freire, T., Vella-Brodrick, D., & Wissing, M. P. (2011). The eudaimonic and hedonic components of happiness: Qualitative and quantitative findings. Social Indicators Research, 100(2), 185–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Diener, E., & Fujita, F. (1995). Resources, personal strivings, and subjective well-being: A nomothetic and idiographic approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(5), 926–935. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.68.5.926.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 94. doi: 10.1016/j.joep.2007.09.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Easterlin, R. A. (2006). Life cycle happiness and its sources. Journal of Economic Psychology, 27(4), 463–482. doi: 10.1016/j.joep.2006.05.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Easterlin, R. A., & Sawangfa, O. (2009). Happiness and domain satisfaction: Theory and evidence. In A. K. Dutt & B. Radcliff (Eds.), Happiness, economics and politics: Towards a multi-disciplinary approach (pp. 70–95). Northampton: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  11. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A., & Frijters, P. (2004). How important is methodology for the estimates of the determinants of happiness?*. The Economic Journal. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0297.2004.00235.x.Google Scholar
  12. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2002). Happiness and economics: How the economy and institutions affect well-being. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2014). Economic consequences of mispredicting utility. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15(4), 937–956. August 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frey, B. S., Benesch, C., & Stutzer, A. (2007). Does watching TV make us happy? Journal of Economic Psychology, 28(3), 283–313. doi: 10.1016/j.joep.2007.02.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hagerty, M. R., & Land, K. C. (2007). Constructing summary indices of quality of life: A model for the effect of heterogeneous importance weights. Sociological Methods & Research, 35(4), 455–496. doi: 10.1177/0049124106292354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Headey, B., Veenhoven, R., & Wearing, A. (1991). Top-down versus bottom-up theories of subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 24(1), 81–100. doi: 10.1007/BF00292652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hsieh, C.-M. (2004). To weight or not to weight: The role of domain importance in quality of life measurement. Social Indicators Research, 68(2), 163–174. doi: 10.1023/B:SOCI.0000025591.82518.ab.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hsieh, C.-M. (2012a). Importance is not unimportant: The role of importance weighting in QOL measures. Social Indicators Research, 109(2), 267–278. doi: 10.1007/s11205-011-9900-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hsieh, C.-M. (2012b). Should we give up domain importance weighting in QoL measures? Social Indicators Research, 108(1), 99–109. doi: 10.1007/s11205-011-9868-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Metcalfe, R., Powdthavee, N., & Dolan, P. (2011). Destruction and distress: Using a quasi-experiment to show the effects of the September 11 attacks on mental well-being in the United Kingdom*. The Economic Journal. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0297.2010.02416.x.Google Scholar
  21. Michalos, A. C. (2004). Social indicators research and health-related quality of life research. Social Indicators Research, 65, 27–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ochsen, C., & Welsch, H. (2012). Who benefits from labour market institutions? Evidence from surveys of life satisfaction. Journal of Economic Psychology, 33, 112. doi: 10.1016/j.joep.2011.08.007.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Rojas, M. (2005). A conceptual-referent theory of happiness: Heterogeneity and its consequences. Social Indicators Research, 74(2), 261–294. doi: 10.1007/s11205-004-4643-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rojas, M. (2006). Life satisfaction and satisfaction in domains of life: Is it a simple relationship? Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(4), 467–497. doi: 10.1007/s10902-006-9009-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rojas, M. (2007). Heterogeneity in the relationship between income and happiness: A conceptual-referent-theory explanation. Journal of Economic Psychology, 28(1), 1–14. doi: 10.1016/j.joep.2005.10.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Stutzer, A., & Frey, B. S. (2008). Stress that doesn’t pay: The commuting paradox*. Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 110(2), 339–366. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9442.2008.00542.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Tiefenbach, T., & Kohlbacher, F. (2014). Subjective well-being across gender and age in Japan: An econometric analysis. In E. Eckermann (Ed.), Gender, lifespan and quality of life: An international perspective (pp. 183–201). Heidelberg: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tiefenbach, T., & Kohlbacher, F. (2015a). Happiness in Japan in times of upheaval: Empirical evidence from the national survey on lifestyle preferences. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(2), 333–366. doi: 10.1007/s10902-014-9512-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Tiefenbach, T., & Kohlbacher, F. (2015b). Individual differences in the relationship between domain satisfaction and happiness: The moderating role of domain importance. Personality and Individual Differences, 86, 82–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Tonidandel, S., & LeBreton, J. M. (2011). Relative importance analysis: A useful supplement to regression analysis. Journal of Business and Psychology, 26, 1–9. doi: 10.1007/ s10869-010-9204-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Van Praag, B. M. S., & Baarsma, B. E. (2005). Using happiness surveys to value intangibles: The case of airport noise. The Economic Journal, 115(500), 224–246. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0297.2004.00967.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Van Praag, B. M. S., & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A. (2008). Happiness quantified. A satisfaction calculus approach (Rev. ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Van Praag, B. M. S., Frijters, P., & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A. (2003). The anatomy of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 51(1), 29–49. doi: 10.1016/S0167-2681(02)00140-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Welsch, H., & Kühling, J. (2009). Using happiness data for environmental valuation: Issues and applications. Journal of Economic Surveys, 23(2), 385–406. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6419.2008.00566.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Wu, C.-H., & Yao, G. (2006). Do we need to weight satisfaction scores with importance ratings in measuring quality of life? Social Indicators Research, 78, 305–326. doi: 10.1007/s11205-005-0212-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ)TokyoJapan
  2. 2.International Business School Suzhou (IBSS)Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool UniversitySuzhouChina

Personalised recommendations