Combining data

Once a framework is in place, two options are available. Firstly one can simply present the data as is, structured, but with results on each question presented separately. This could be useful if you are interested in particular aspects of well-being, but does not allow one to see any patterns or overall picture. Some degree of aggregation is necessary. This may be only to a minimal level (e.g. aggregating the three questions on positive feelings) or it may be to a higher level (i.e. creating a single overall indicator of well-being). Either way many problems are posed and must be resolved. For more discussion on the difficulties of creating composite indicators, look at the joint OECD/JRC Handbook on Constructing Composite Indicators.

Before going on, take a look at the questions that are important to well-being in the ESS. How might you be able to combine them? How can you compare responses to one set of questions with those from another? How could you tell if a country or individual is doing well on a particular aspect of well-being?

Difficult, isn’t it? Well, the methodology presented here was developed for the following purposes:

  1. To allow different aspects of well-being to be considered separately, but also in aggregate as necessary
  2. To allow comparison between countries, demographic groups, and over time
  3. To allow comparison, for a given group, between different aspects of well-being
  4. To be easily interpretable

It involves three stages:

  1. Standardisation
  2. Aggregation
  3. Transformation
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