IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/spr/soinre/v117y2014i3p1089-1110.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Does National Income Inequality Affect Individuals’ Quality of Life in Europe? Inequality, Happiness, Finances, and Health

Author

Listed:
  • Krzysztof Zagorski

    ()

  • Mariah Evans
  • Jonathan Kelley
  • Katarzyna Piotrowska

Abstract

This paper analyses the effect of income inequality on Europeans’ quality of life, specifically on their overall well-being (happiness, life satisfaction), on their financial quality of life (satisfaction with standard of living, affordability of goods and services, subjective poverty), and on their health (self-rated health, satisfaction with health). The simple bivariate correlations of inequality with overall well-being, financial quality of life, and health are negative. But this is misleading because of the confounding effect of a key omitted variable, national economic development (GDP per capita): Unequal societies are on average much poorer (r = 0.46) and so disadvantaged because of that. We analyse the multi-level European Quality of Life survey conducted in 2003 including national-level data on inequality (Gini coefficient) and economic development (GDP) and individual-level data on overall well-being, financial quality of life, and health. The individual cases are from representative samples of 28 European countries. Our variance-components multi-level models controlling for known individual-level predictors show that national per capita GDP increases subjective well-being, financial quality of life, and health. Net of that, the national level of inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, has no statistically significant effect, suggesting that income inequality does not reduce well-being, financial quality of life, or health in advanced societies. These result all imply that directing policies and resources towards inequality reduction is unlikely to benefit the general public in advanced societies. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Krzysztof Zagorski & Mariah Evans & Jonathan Kelley & Katarzyna Piotrowska, 2014. "Does National Income Inequality Affect Individuals’ Quality of Life in Europe? Inequality, Happiness, Finances, and Health," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 117(3), pages 1089-1110, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:117:y:2014:i:3:p:1089-1110
    DOI: 10.1007/s11205-013-0390-z
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1007/s11205-013-0390-z
    Download Restriction: Access to full text is restricted to subscribers.

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Paolo Verme, 2011. "Life Satisfaction And Income Inequality," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 57(1), pages 111-127, March.
    2. Simone Schneider, 2012. "Income Inequality and its Consequences for Life Satisfaction: What Role do Social Cognitions Play?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 106(3), pages 419-438, May.
    3. Angus Deaton, 2008. "Income, Health, and Well-Being around the World: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(2), pages 53-72, Spring.
    4. Bernard Praag, 2011. "Well-being inequality and reference groups: an agenda for new research," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(1), pages 111-127, March.
    5. AndrewE. Clark & Claudia Senik, 2010. "Who Compares to Whom? The Anatomy of Income Comparisons in Europe," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(544), pages 573-594, May.
    6. 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.
    7. Ed Diener & Eunkook Suh, 1997. "Measuring Quality Of Life: Economic, Social, And Subjective Indicators," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 40(1), pages 189-216, January.
    8. Alesina, Alberto & Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2004. "Inequality and happiness: are Europeans and Americans different?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2009-2042, August.
    9. AndrewE. Clark & Claudia Senik, 2010. "Who Compares to Whom? The Anatomy of Income Comparisons in Europe," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(544), pages 573-594, May.
    10. Jee-Seon Kim & Edward Frees, 2007. "Multilevel Modeling with Correlated Effects," Psychometrika, Springer;The Psychometric Society, vol. 72(4), pages 505-533, December.
    11. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2002. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 402-435, June.
    12. Christian Welzel & Ronald Inglehart, 2010. "Agency, Values, and Well-Being: A Human Development Model," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 97(1), pages 43-63, May.
    13. Carol Graham & Andrew Felton, 2006. "Inequality and happiness: Insights from Latin America," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 4(1), pages 107-122, April.
    14. Bruce Headey, 1993. "An economic model of subjective well-being: Integrating economic and psychological theories," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 28(2), pages 97-116, February.
    15. repec:pri:cheawb:deaton_income_health_and_wellbeing_around_the_world_evidence_%20from_gall is not listed on IDEAS
    16. repec:cup:apsrev:v:95:y:2001:i:04:p:939-952_40 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Seidl, Christian & Traub, Stefan & Morone, Andrea, 2003. "Relative Deprivation, Personal Income Satisfaction, and Average Well-Being under Different Income Distributions," Economics Working Papers 2003-05, Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, Department of Economics.
    18. M. Evans & Jonathan Kelley, 2004. "Effect of family structure on life satisfaction: australian evidence," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 69(3), pages 303-349, December.
    19. Bruce Headey & Ruud Muffels & Gert Wagner, 2013. "Choices Which Change Life Satisfaction: Similar Results for Australia, Britain and Germany," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 112(3), pages 725-748, July.
    20. Leslie McCall & Lane Kenworthy, 2007. "Inequality, Public Opinion, and Redistribution," LIS Working papers 459, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    21. Ruut Veenhoven & Michael Hagerty, 2006. "Rising Happiness in Nations 1946–2004: A Reply to Easterlin," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 79(3), pages 421-436, December.
    22. Sen, Amartya, 1973. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198281931.
    23. Michael Hagerty & Ruut Veenhoven, 2003. "Wealth and Happiness Revisited – Growing National Income Does Go with Greater Happiness," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 64(1), pages 1-27, October.
    24. Mariano Rojas & Ruut Veenhoven, 2013. "Contentment and Affect in the Estimation of Happiness," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 110(2), pages 415-431, January.
    25. Richard Easterlin, 2005. "Feeding the Illusion of Growth and Happiness: A Reply to Hagerty and Veenhoven," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 74(3), pages 429-443, December.
    26. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1997. "A Case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1848-1858, November.
    27. Macunovich, Diane J., 2011. "A Note on Inequality Aversion Across Countries, Using Two New Measures," IZA Discussion Papers 5734, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    28. Ed Diener & Ronald Inglehart & Louis Tay, 2013. "Theory and Validity of Life Satisfaction Scales," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 112(3), pages 497-527, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Nigel Kragten & Jesper Rözer, 2017. "The Income Inequality Hypothesis Revisited: Assessing the Hypothesis Using Four Methodological Approaches," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 131(3), pages 1015-1033, April.
    2. repec:spr:jhappi:v:19:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s10902-017-9851-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:spr:jhappi:v:19:y:2018:i:4:d:10.1007_s10902-017-9860-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Robin Samuel & Andreas Hadjar, 2016. "How Welfare-State Regimes Shape Subjective Well-Being Across Europe," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 129(2), pages 565-587, November.
    5. Eckersley, Richard, 2015. "Beyond inequality: Acknowledging the complexity of social determinants of health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 121-125.
    6. Quang Tran, Tuyen & Viet Nguyen, Cuong & Van Vu, Huong, 2015. "Economic Inequality and Happiness: A quantitative study among the elderly in Rural Vietnam," MPRA Paper 81235, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 14 Oct 2016.
    7. 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.
    8. repec:spr:soinre:v:137:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s11205-017-1623-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. repec:spr:soinre:v:132:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11205-015-1153-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Jonathan Kelley & M. D. R. Evans & Jennifer Lowman & Valerie Lykes, 2017. "Group-mean-centering independent variables in multi-level models is dangerous," Quality & Quantity: International Journal of Methodology, Springer, vol. 51(1), pages 261-283, January.

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:117:y:2014:i:3:p:1089-1110. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Sonal Shukla) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: http://www.springer.com .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.