relative impact on people of income and unemployment13 and marriage and marital dissolution (Deaton, 2011, p. 50) and, more generally, on the effect of policies where large nonmarket components are involved (e.g., standard of living during end-of-life medical treatment). Data on subjective well-being have the potential to augment information in any situation in which market data are unavailable or not relevant and policy makers require criteria for choosing one course of action among two or more alternatives. In these cases, a range of evidence—revealed preference, stated preference, and subjective well-being measures—can usefully be drawn upon. And wellbeing measures that are tied to specific activities add a great deal of subtlety to these analysis; for example, while perhaps unemployed persons are able to engage more in activities they like to do (spend time with friends or relatives, rest, watch television, etc.), perhaps they enjoy each of those activities less relative to the employed.
It will be a task for this Panel’s final report to provide an assessment of the extent to which subjective measures—including both global, evaluative measures and the more experiential measures that are the focus of this module—can or should be used to guide policy. Collecting data within the context of the ATUS has the potential to help researchers and policy makers evaluate whether these measures can be used in this way.
The cost of discontinuing the module could be large since—if the value of such data became more apparent at some point in the future—restarting the survey would likely entail repeating start-up tasks and drawing again on political capital to make it happen. More importantly, the data continuity that is now being established (with the 2010 and 2012 waves and the proposed 2013 wave) would be lost, affecting the ability of researchers to draw inferences from trends in reported time use and well-being.
On the budget side, the marginal financial cost of adding the developed module to ATUS is relatively modest—about $178,000.14 That said, it would be useful to perform a full accounting to assess the quality of survey results and any effects that the addition of the SWB module may have on the quality of the overall CPS and ATUS. At least in terms of respondent burden and response rates, these concerns would seem to be modest for the former and unfounded for the latter. Indeed, by design, the ATUS is asked of those who have rotated out of the CPS, and modules are asked after the core ATUS is completed. This design element prevents modules from impacting response to the core ATUS and CPS.15 Because the SWB questions are the last
13One could reasonably conclude that addressing the recent high rate of unemployment was made even more urgent by findings from research on subjective well-being showing that, in terms of individuals’ utility, more was involved than simply an income effect. As Krueger and Mueller (2012) note, unemployment takes an emotional toll on people even while they are engaged in leisure activities. This calls into question an earlier conclusion by economists that people’s decreases in well-being because of unemployment may be partially compensated by increases in leisure.
14The monetary cost of the 2012 module was higher ($273,000) as it included cognitive testing, data editing, interviewer training, and call monitoring activities by BLS.
15If ATUS interviewers indicated that the survey will take 5 minutes longer, addition of the module could affect people’s willingness to participate (unit response rates). ATUS response