International Evidence on the Social Context of Well-Being

John F. Helliwell, Chris Barrington-Leigh, Anthony Harris and Haifang Huang

in International Differences in Well-Being

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780199732739
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199776887 | DOI:
International Evidence on the Social Context of Well-Being

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This chapter uses the first three waves of the Gallup World Poll to investigate differences across countries, cultures, and regions in the factors linked to life satisfaction, paying special attention to the social context. The principal findings are: First, using the larger pooled sample, the chapter finds that answers to the satisfaction with life and Cantril ladder questions provide consistent views of what constitutes a good life, with an average of the two measures providing a clearer picture than either measure on its own. Second, this chapter finds strong evidence for the importance of both income and social context variables in explaining within-country and international differences in well-being. For most specifications tested, the combined effects of a few measures of the social and institutional context are as large as those of income in explaining both international and intra-national differences in life satisfaction. Third, the very significant influences of both income and social factors permit the calculation of compensating differentials for social factors. We find very large income-equivalent values for key measures of the social context. Fourth, the international similarity of the estimated equations suggests that the large international differences in average life evaluations are not due to different approaches to the meaning of a good life, but to differing social, institutional, and economic life circumstances.

Keywords: international; national; well-being; culture; life satisfaction; income

Chapter.  12203 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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