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Estimating worldwide life satisfaction

  • Abdallah, Saamah
  • Thompson, Sam
  • Marks, Nic
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    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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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VDY-4RSTJKT-3/1/170f2db0790a2af37a4660635db0b8af
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 65 (2008)
    Issue (Month): 1 (March)
    Pages: 35-47

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:65:y:2008:i:1:p:35-47
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

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    1. Geeta Gandhi Kingdon & John Knight, 2006. "Subjective well-being poverty vs. Income poverty and capabilities poverty?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(7), pages 1199-1224.
    2. Vemuri, Amanda W. & Costanza, Robert, 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, Elsevier, vol. 58(1), pages 119-133, June.
    3. Ruut Veenhoven, 2001. "Are the Russians as Unhappy as they say they are?," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 111-136, June.
    4. Ed Diener & Eunkook Suh & Heidi Smith & Liang Shao, 1995. "National differences in reported subjective well-being: Why do they occur?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 7-32, January.
    5. Rehdanz, Katrin & Maddison, David, 2005. "Climate and happiness," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 111-125, January.
      • Katrin Rehdanz & David J. Maddison, 2003. "Climate and Happiness," Working Papers FNU-20, Research unit Sustainability and Global Change, Hamburg University, revised Apr 2003.
    6. Sutton, Paul C. & Costanza, Robert, 2002. "Global estimates of market and non-market values derived from nighttime satellite imagery, land cover, and ecosystem service valuation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 509-527, June.
    7. Peggy Schyns, 2002. "Wealth Of Nations, Individual Income andLife Satisfaction in 42 Countries:A Multilevel Approach," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 60(1), pages 5-40, December.
    8. Ed Diener & Christie Napa-Scollon & Shigehiro Oishi & Vivian Dzokoto & Eunkook Suh, 2000. "Positivity and the Construction of Life Satisfaction Judgments: Global Happiness is not the Sum of its Parts," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 159-176, June.
    9. Michael Hagerty, 1999. "Testing Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs: National Quality-of-Life Across Time," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 46(3), pages 249-271, March.
    10. Ruut Veenhoven, 1991. "Is happiness relative?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 1-34, February.
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