Heffetz, Ori, and Matthew Rabin. 2013. "Conclusions Regarding Cross-Group Differences in Happiness Depend on Difficulty of Reaching Respondents." American Economic Review, 103(7): 3001-21.
A growing literature explores differences in subjective well-being across demographic groups, often relying on surveys with high nonresponse rates. By using the reported number of call attempts made to participants in the University of Michigan's Surveys of Consumers, we show that comparisons among easy-to-reach respondents differ from comparisons among hard-to-reach ones. Notably, easy-to-reach women are happier than easy-to-reach men, but hard-to-reach men are happier than hard-to-reach women, and conclusions of a survey could reverse with more attempted calls. Better alternatives to comparing group sample averages might include putting greater weight on hard-to-reach respondents or even extrapolating trends in responses.