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

  • Sarracino, Francesco

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.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics).

Volume (Year): 39 (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 (August)
Pages: 482-517

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Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:39:y:2010:i:4:p:482-517
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  1. 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).
  2. Stevenson, Betsey & Wolfers, Justin, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," IZA Discussion Papers 3654, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  4. Luigino Bruni & Luca Stanca, 2005. "Watching alone: Relational Goods, Television and Happiness," Working Papers 90, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Jun 2005.
  5. Steven N. Durlauf, 2002. "On the Empirics of Social Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 459-479, November.
  6. Marcel Fafchamps, 2004. "Social Capital and Development," Economics Series Working Papers 214, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  7. Knack, Stephen, 2003. " Groups, Growth and Trust: Cross-Country Evidence on the Olson and Putnam Hypotheses," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 117(3-4), pages 341-55, December.
  8. Durlauf,S.N. & Fafchamps,M., 2004. "Social capital," Working papers 12, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
    • 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.
  9. repec:tpr:qjecon:v:122:y:2007:i:3:p:969-1006 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Mark Aguiar & Erik Hurst, 2006. "Measuring trends in leisure: the allocation of time over five decades," Working Papers 06-2, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
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