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Are the unemployed equally unhappy all around the world? The role of the social norms to work and welfare state provision in 28 OECD countries

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  • Stavrova, Olga
  • Schlösser, Thomas
  • Fetchenhauer, Detlef

Abstract

This paper examines cross-national and temporal variations in the effect of personal unemployment on life satisfaction. To account for these variations we consider the social norm to work and national systems of unemployment benefits. Following the social psychological approach to social norms (Cialdini, Reno, & Kallgren, 1990) we differentiate between descriptive, societal injunctive and personal injunctive norms. We use the national unemployment rates as a proxy of the descriptive norm to work. The societal injunctive norm and the personal injunctive norm to work are conceptualized as society's vs. personal attitudes towards working for a living versus living off public funds, respectively. The results of the multilevel regression analysis of the data from 28 OECD countries (European and World Values Survey, 1999-2009) suggest that the single country characteristic that could explain contextual variations in the unemployment effect is the societal injunctive norm to work: unemployment hurts less in societies with more tolerant attitudes towards being out of work. This effect holds even after controlling for the national level of unemployment benefits and the personal injunctive norm to work. We conclude that the negative effect of personal unemployment in societies with a strong societal injunctive norm to work is so much higher due to social pressure and disapproval and not to the perception that one does not live up to their own standards.

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  • Stavrova, Olga & Schlösser, Thomas & Fetchenhauer, Detlef, 2011. "Are the unemployed equally unhappy all around the world? The role of the social norms to work and welfare state provision in 28 OECD countries," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 159-171, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:32:y:2011:i:1:p:159-171
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    3. Hansen, Kerstin F. & Stutzer, Alois, 2022. "Parental unemployment, social insurance and child well-being across countries," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 204(C), pages 600-617.
    4. Furtado, Delia & Papps, Kerry L. & Theodoropoulos, Nikolaos, 2022. "Who Goes on Disability when Times are Tough? The Role of Work Norms among Immigrants," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 143(C).
    5. Antje Mertens & Miriam Beblo, 2016. "Self-Reported Satisfaction and the Economic Crisis of 2007–2010: Or How People in the UK and Germany Perceive a Severe Cyclical Downturn," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 125(2), pages 537-565, January.
    6. Marcus Klemm, 2011. "You Don‘t Know what You‘ve got till It‘s Gone! Unemployment and Intertemporal Changes in Self-Reported Life Satisfaction," Ruhr Economic Papers 0297, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
    7. Esteban Calvo & Christine Mair, 2014. "The Multiplicative Effect of Individual- and Country-level Unemployment on Life Satisfaction in 97 Nations (1981-2009)," Working Papers 49, Facultad de Economía y Empresa, Universidad Diego Portales.
    8. Bussu, Anna & Detotto, Claudio & Sterzi, Valerio, 2013. "Social conformity and suicide," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 67-78.
    9. Wen-Hao Chen & Feng Hou, 2019. "The Effect of Unemployment on Life Satisfaction: A Cross-National Comparison Between Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States," Applied Research in Quality of Life, Springer;International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies, vol. 14(4), pages 1035-1058, September.
    10. Ubaldi, Michele & Picchio, Matteo, 2023. "Intergenerational Scars: The Impact of Parental Unemployment on Individual Health Later in Life," IZA Discussion Papers 16103, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    11. Martin Binder, 2015. "Do it with joy: Subjective well-being outcomes of working in non-profit organizations," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2015-03, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
    12. Picchio, Matteo & Ubaldi, Michele, 2022. "Unemployment and Health: A Meta-Analysis," GLO Discussion Paper Series 1128, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    13. Leonie C. Steckermeier & Jan Delhey, 2019. "Better for Everyone? Egalitarian Culture and Social Wellbeing in Europe," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 143(3), pages 1075-1108, June.
    14. Fervers, Lukas, 2018. "Can public employment schemes break the negative spiral of long-term unemployment, social exclusion and loss of skills? Evidence from Germany," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 18-33.
    15. Klemm, Marcus, 2011. "You Don't Know what You've got till It's Gone! Unemployment and Intertemporal Changes in Self-Reported Life Satisfaction," Ruhr Economic Papers 297, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    16. Naoki Akaeda, 2022. "The Consequences of Social Policy for Subjective Well-Being: A New Paradox?," LIS Working papers 846, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    17. repec:zbw:rwirep:0297 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Ade Kearns & Phil Mason, 2018. "Entering and leaving employment in deprived neighbourhoods undergoing area regeneration," Local Economy, London South Bank University, vol. 33(5), pages 537-561, August.
    19. Dominik Buttler, 2022. "Employment Status and Well-Being Among Young Individuals. Why Do We Observe Cross-Country Differences?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 164(1), pages 409-437, November.
    20. Marcus Klemm, 2011. "You Don't Know What You've Got till It's Gone!: Unemployment and Intertemporal Changes in Self-Reported Life Satisfaction," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 421, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).

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