Do household heads speak for the household? A research note

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26 Scopus citations


Many recent household surveys include questions about respondents' subjective well-being. Nearly all of them, however, pose these questions only to the household head. This paper addresses an issue with practical and methodological concerns. Can survey designers ask only household heads and expect them to accurately represent the living conditions of the entire household? Using South Africa's 1998 October Household Survey (OHS) to estimate econometric models of subjective well-being, this paper finds that the response of household heads is determined largely by factors shared by the entire household - housing, for example - and not on those experienced primarily by the head - individual health status, for example. This suggests that South African household heads are truly reporting household well-being, rather than their individual level of satisfaction. While this result probably cannot be widely generalized, the testing methodology is replicable and could be applied to similarly structured data sets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-419
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Indicators Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2006


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