Estimating worldwide life satisfaction
Whilst studies of life satisfaction are becoming more common-place, their global coverage is far from complete. This paper develops a new database of life satisfaction scores for 178 countries, bringing together subjective well-being data from four surveys and using stepwise regression to estimate scores for nations where no subjective data are available. In doing so, we explore various factors that predict between-nation variation in subjective life satisfaction, building on Vemuri and Costanza's (Vemuri, A.W., & Costanza, R., 2006. The role of human, social, built, and natural capital in explaining life satisfaction at the country level: toward a National Well-Being Index (NWI). Ecological Economics, 58:119-133.) four capitals model. The main regression model explains 76% of variation in existing subjective scores; importantly, this includes poorer nations that had proven problematic in Vemuri and Costanza's (Vemuri, A.W., & Costanza, R., 2006. The role of human, social, built, and natural capital in explaining life satisfaction at the country level: toward a National Well-Being Index (NWI). Ecological Economics, 58:119-133.) study. Natural, human and socio-political capitals are all found to be strong predictors of life satisfaction. Built capital, operationalised as GDP, did not enter our regression model, being overshadowed by the human capital and socio-political capital factors that it inter-correlates with. The final database presents a stop-gap resource that, until robust surveys are carried out worldwide, allows comparisons of subjective life satisfaction between nations to be made with reasonable confidence.
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