Michael R. Hagerty and Kenneth C. Land Constructing Summary Indices of Quality of Life: A Model for the Effect of Heterogeneous Importance Weights Sociological Methods & Research 2007 35: 455-496.

The authors consider how to construct summary indices (e.g., quality-of-life [QOL] indices) for a social unit that will be endorsed by a majority of its citizens. They assume that many social indicators are available to describe the social unit, but individuals disagree about the relative weights to be assigned to each social indicator. The summary index that maximizes agreementamong citizens can then be derived, along with conditions under which an index will be endorsed by a majority in the social unit. The authors show that intuition greatly underestimates the extent of agreement among individuals, and it is often possible to construct a QOL index that most citizens agree with (at least in direction). In particular, they show that the equal-weighting strategy is privileged in that it minimizes disagreement among all possible individuals’ weights. They demonstrate these propositions by calculating real QOL indices for two surveys of citizens’ actual importance weights.

Key Words: summary index construction • quality-of-life indices • heterogeneous importance weights • well-being accounts

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