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How’s the Job? Well-Being and Social Capital in the Workplace

  • John F. Helliwell
  • Haifang Huang

The authors first investigate how income and job characteristics affect life satisfaction, then estimate compensating differentials for non-financial job characteristics. To address potential problems with using life satisfaction data as dependent variables, they draw on three Canadian surveys (conducted in the years 2002–2003) with different samples and questions, and they use individual personality measures, various robustness checks, and cross-testing with measures of domain satisfaction. The life satisfaction results show strikingly large values for non-financial job characteristics, especially workplace trust. For example, a one-third-standard-deviation increase in trust in management is equivalent to an income increase of more than one-third. These results, if confirmed by further research in other settings, suggest either that it is very costly to build and maintain workplace trust or that there are opportunities to improve workplace environments so as to increase both life satisfaction and workplace efficiency.

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Article provided by ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School in its journal ILR Review.

Volume (Year): 63 (2010)
Issue (Month): 2 (January)
Pages: 205-227

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Handle: RePEc:ilr:articl:v:63:y:2010:i:2:p:205-227
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  1. Kingdon, Geeta Gandhi & Knight, John, 2007. "Community, comparisons and subjective well-being in a divided society," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 69-90, September.
  2. Morley Gunderson & Douglas Hyatt, 2001. "Workplace risks and wages: Canadian evidence from alternative models," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 34(2), pages 377-395, May.
  3. Andrew E. Clark and Andrew J. Oswald, . "Satisfaction and Comparison Income," Economics Discussion Papers 419, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  4. Ronald Meng, 1989. "Compensating Differences in the Canadian Labour Market," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 22(2), pages 413-24, May.
  5. Brown, Charles, 1980. "Equalizing Differences in the Labor Market," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 94(1), pages 113-34, February.
  6. Dickens, William T, 1984. "Differences between Risk Premiums in Union and Nonunion Wages and the Case for Occupational Safety Regulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(2), pages 320-23, May.
  7. Frank, Robert H, 1997. "The Frame of Reference as a Public Good," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1832-47, November.
  8. Garen, John, 1988. "Compensating Wage Differentials and the Endogeneity of Job Riskiness," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(1), pages 9-16, February.
  9. Cousineau, Jean-Michel & Lacroix, Robert & Girard, Anne-Marie, 1992. "Occupational Hazard and Wage Compensating Differentials," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 74(1), pages 166-69, February.
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