Ginevra Floridi and Benjamin E Lauderdale, “Pairwise Comparisons as a Scale Development Tool for Composite Measures”

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Composite scales are widely used for measuring aggregate social science concepts. These often consist of linear indices obtained as the weighted sum of a set of relevant indicators. However, selecting coefficients (or weights) that reflect the substantive importance of each indicator towards the concept of interest is a difficult task. We propose a method for the generation of linear indices for aggregate concepts based on pairwise comparisons. Specifically, we ask a group of subject-matter experts to perform a series of pairwise comparisons, with respect to the concept of interest, between profiles displaying different combinations of indicators. This allows us to estimate coefficients for each indicator that provide a linear approximation to how experts make the pairwise evaluations. As we show, the method makes it straightforward to assess intercoder reliability, while being a more accessible task than directly asking experts for coefficients. We demonstrate our method with an application to the concept of “productive ageing”, including a cross-cultural comparison of weighting schemes derived from group of Italian and a group of South Korean experts on this concept.

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