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Social capital and subjective well-being trends: Comparing 11 western European countries

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  • Sarracino, Francesco

Abstract

Discovering whether social capital endowments in modern societies have been subjected or not to a process of gradual erosion is one of the most debated topics in recent economic literature. This new stream of research has been inaugurated by Putnam's pioneering studies about social capital trends in the United States. Recently, a considerable work by Stevenson and Wolfers (2008) put a new emphasis on this topic contending Easterlin's assessment. Present work is aimed at analyzing the relationship between changes in social capital and subjective well-being in western Europe considering 11 different countries. In particular, I would like to answer questions such as: (1) is social capital in western Europe declining? Is such erosion a general trend of modern societies or is it a characteristic feature of only some of them? (2) social capital trend can help to explain subjective well-being trend? In so doing, my research considers four different set of proxies of social capital controlling for time and socio-demographic aspects in eleven different western European countries using World Values Survey (WVS) data between 1980 and 2000. My results are encouraging, showing evidence of a probable relationship between social capital and happiness. Furthermore, my results show that during last 20 years western European citizens have persistently lost confidence in the judicial system, in the church, in armed forces and the police. Finally, considering single countries, we discover that United Kingdom is the only country, among the investigated ones, with a negative pattern for social capital: the majority of the proxies of social capital in UK declined over the considered period.

Suggested Citation

  • Sarracino, Francesco, 2010. "Social capital and subjective well-being trends: Comparing 11 western European countries," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 482-517, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:39:y:2010:i:4:p:482-517
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
    2. Marcel Fafchamps, 2004. "Social Capital and Development," Economics Series Working Papers 214, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    3. Bruni, Luigino & Stanca, Luca, 2008. "Watching alone: Relational goods, television and happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 506-528, March.
    4. Delhey, Jan & Newton, Kenneth, 2004. "Social trust: Global pattern or nordic exceptionalism?," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Inequality and Social Integration SP I 2004-202, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    5. Durlauf, Steven N. & Fafchamps, Marcel, 2005. "Social Capital," Handbook of Economic Growth,in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 26, pages 1639-1699 Elsevier.
    6. Knack, Stephen, 2003. "Groups, Growth and Trust: Cross-Country Evidence on the Olson and Putnam Hypotheses," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 117(3-4), pages 341-355, December.
    7. Steven N. Durlauf, 2002. "On the Empirics of Social Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 459-479, November.
    8. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2007. "Measuring Trends in Leisure: The Allocation of Time Over Five Decades," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(3), pages 969-1006.
    9. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 39(1 (Spring), pages 1-102.
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