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The Dark Side of Chinese Growth: Declining Social Capital and Well-Being in Times of Economic Boom


  • Bartolini, Stefano
  • Sarracino, Francesco


Over the last two decades, subjective well-being in China declined. Using data from the World Values Survey, we identify predictors of the trend in life satisfaction in China during 1990–2007. Social comparisons and the decline of social capital explain the decrease in well-being, and they are strictly connected to the increasing orientation of Chinese people toward materialistic values. The increasing role of social comparisons is also a key factor in the increase of well-being inequalities between income classes.

Suggested Citation

  • Bartolini, Stefano & Sarracino, Francesco, 2015. "The Dark Side of Chinese Growth: Declining Social Capital and Well-Being in Times of Economic Boom," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 74(C), pages 333-351.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:74:y:2015:i:c:p:333-351
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2015.05.010

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Antoci, Angelo & Sabatini, Fabio & Sarracino, Francesco, 2016. "Online Networks, Social Interaction and Segregation: An Evolutionary Approach," MPRA Paper 70122, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Piekalkiewicz, Marcin, 2016. "Money, Social Capital and Materialism. Evidence from Happiness Data," EconStor Preprints 130185, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.
    3. Fabio Sabatini & Francesco Sarracino, 2015. "Keeping up with the e-Joneses: Do online social networks raise social comparisons?," Papers 1507.08863,
    4. Stefano Bartolini & Małgorzata Mikucka & Francesco Sarracino, 2017. "Money, Trust and Happiness in Transition Countries: Evidence from Time Series," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 130(1), pages 87-106, January.
    5. repec:eee:jrpoli:v:53:y:2017:i:c:p:125-134 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Rotondi, Valentina & Stanca, Luca & Tomasuolo, Miriam, 2017. "Connecting alone: Smartphone use, quality of social interactions and well-being," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 63(C), pages 17-26.
    7. repec:spr:soinre:v:132:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1266-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Angelo Antoci & Alexia Delfino & Fabio Paglieri & Fabio Sabatini, 2016. "The ecology of social interactions in online and offline environments," Papers 1601.07776,
    9. Fabio Sabatini & Francesco Sarracino, 2017. "Online Networks and Subjective Well-Being," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(3), pages 456-480, August.
    10. Antoci, Angelo & Delfino, Alexia & Paglieri, Fabio & Panebianco, Fabrizio & Sabatini, Fabio, 2016. "Civility vs. incivility in online social interactions: an evolutionary approach," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 68800, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    11. Mikucka, Malgorzata & Sarracino, Francesco & Dubrow, Joshua K., 2017. "When Does Economic Growth Improve Life Satisfaction? Multilevel Analysis of the Roles of Social Trust and Income Inequality in 46 Countries, 1981–2012," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 93(C), pages 447-459.
    12. VAN DEN BROECK, Goedele & MAERTENS, Miet, 2015. "Does Off-farm Employment Make Women in Rural Senegal Happy?," Working Papers 232593, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Centre for Agricultural and Food Economics.


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