Income Measures in Cross-National Surveys: Problems and Solutions

Michael J. Donnelly, Grigore Pop-Eleches

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Comparable household income measures are crucial for most social science analyses of cross-national public opinion survey data. However, income questions in many cross-national surveys suffer from comparability and interpretability limitations that have not been adequately addressed by the existing literature. In this article, we examine the income measure in one major survey, the World Values Survey (WVS), arguing that a variety of problems arise when drawing inferences - descriptive or causal, individual or aggregate - using the standard ten-category measure. We then propose and implement a number of corrections to these potential biases and present a series of diagnostics that confirm the importance of our proposed corrections. We conclude by documenting some of the same challenges in the income measures used in other cross-national surveys. The accompanying data set can be merged with the WVS to make better use of the income measure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-363
Number of pages9
JournalPolitical Science Research and Methods
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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