IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Cross-country determinants of life satisfaction: exploring different determinants across groups in society

  • Christian Bjørnskov
  • Axel Dreher
  • Justina A. V. Fischer

This paper explores a wide range of cross-country determinants of life satisfaction exploiting a database of 90,000 observations in 70 countries. We distinguish four groups of aggregate variables as potential determinants of satisfaction: political, economic, institutional, and human development and culture. We use ordered probit to investigate the importance of these variables on individual life satisfaction and test the robustness of our results with Extreme Bounds Analysis. The results show that only a small number of factors, such as openness, business climate, postcommunism, the number of chambers in parliament, Christian majority, and infant mortality robustly influence life satisfaction across countries while the importance of many variables suggested in the previous literature is not confirmed. This remains largely true when the analysis splits national populations according to gender, income and political orientation also.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: Open access version.
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 19290.

in new window

Length: 54 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:19290
Contact details of provider: Postal: LSE Library Portugal Street London, WC2A 2HD, U.K.
Phone: +44 (020) 7405 7686
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Xavier X. Sala-i-Martin, 1997. "I Just Ran Four Million Regressions," NBER Working Papers 6252, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Carmen Fernandez & Eduardo Ley & Mark F. J. Steel, 2001. "Model uncertainty in cross-country growth regressions," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 16(5), pages 563-576.
  3. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
  4. Alberto Alesina & Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2001. "Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?," NBER Working Papers 8198, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Leamer, Edward E, 1983. "Let's Take the Con Out of Econometrics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(1), pages 31-43, March.
  6. Michael Lamla, 2007. "Long-run Determinants of Pollution: A Robustness Analysis," KOF Working papers 07-164, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  7. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  8. Ruut Veenhoven, 2000. "The Four Qualities of Life," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 1-39, March.
  9. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  10. Christian Bjørnskov & Axel Dreher & Justina A.V. Fischer, 2006. "Cross-Country Determinants of Life Satisfaction: Exploring Different Determinants across Groups in Society," KOF Working papers 06-145, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  11. John F. Helliwell, 2002. "How's Life? Combining Individual and National Variables to Explain Subjective Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 9065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Gary S. Becker, 1968. "Crime and Punishment: An Economic Approach," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 76, pages 169.
  13. Oswald, Andrew, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 478, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  14. Andrew Clark & Orsolya Lelkes, 2006. "Deliver us from Evil: Religion as insurance," Papers on Economics of Religion 06/03, Department of Economic Theory and Economic History of the University of Granada..
  15. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1997. "A Case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1848-58, November.
  16. Alois Stutzer & Rafael Lalive, . "The Role of Social Work Norms in Job Searching and Subjective Well-Being," IEW - Working Papers 051, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  17. Weingast, Barry R & Shepsle, Kenneth A & Johnsen, Christopher, 1981. "The Political Economy of Benefits and Costs: A Neoclassical Approach to Distributive Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 642-64, August.
  18. Brennan,Geoffrey & Buchanan,James M., 2006. "The Power to Tax," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521027922.
  19. Jan-Egbert Sturm & Helge Berger & Jakob de Haan, 2005. "Which Variables Explain Decisions On Imf Credit? An Extreme Bounds Analysis," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 17, pages 177-213, 07.
  20. repec:oup:qjecon:v:112:y:1997:i:1:p:85-114 is not listed on IDEAS
  21. Alesina, Alberto, et al, 2003. " Fractionalization," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 155-94, June.
  22. Roubini, Nouriel & Sachs, Jeffrey D., 1989. "Political and economic determinants of budget deficits in the industrial democracies," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(5), pages 903-933, May.
  23. Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert J. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 615, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  24. Justina A.V. Fischer & Christian Bjornskov & Axel Dreher, 2007. "On Gender Inequality and Life Satisfaction: Does Discrimination Matter?," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2007 2007-07, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  25. Bernd Hayo, 2004. "Happiness in Eastern Europe," Public Economics 0410002, EconWPA.
  26. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1975. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 64, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  27. Carol Graham & Stefano Pettinato, 2001. "Happiness, Markets, and Democracy: Latin America in Comparative Perspective," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 2(3), pages 237-268, September.
  28. Niskanen, William A, 1975. "Bureaucrats and Politicians," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 617-43, December.
  29. Bergh, Andreas, 2006. "Explaining Welfare State Survival: The Role of Economic Freedom and Globalization," Ratio Working Papers 101, The Ratio Institute.
  30. Thomas König, 2001. "Bicameralism and Party Politics in Germany: an Empirical Social Choice Analysis," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 49(3), pages 411-437, 08.
  31. Levine, Ross & Renelt, David, 1992. "A Sensitivity Analysis of Cross-Country Growth Regressions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 942-63, September.
  32. Gordon Tullock, 1981. "Why so much stability," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 37(2), pages 189-204, January.
  33. Christian Bjornskov, 2003. "The Happy Few: Cross--Country Evidence on Social Capital and Life Satisfaction," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(1), pages 3-16, February.
  34. Lancaster, Kelvin, 1980. "Intra-industry trade under perfect monopolistic competition," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 151-175, May.
  35. Craig Fox & Daniel Kahneman, 1992. "Correlations, causes and heuristics in surveys of life satisfaction," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 221-234, November.
  36. Keefer, Philip & Knack, Stephen, 2002. " Polarization, Politics and Property Rights: Links between Inequality and Growth," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 111(1-2), pages 127-54, March.
  37. Christian Bjørnskov & Axel Dreher & Justina A. V. Fischer, 2005. "The bigger the better? Evidence of the effect of government size on life satisfaction around the world," CER-ETH Economics working paper series 05/44, CER-ETH - Center of Economic Research (CER-ETH) at ETH Zurich.
  38. Axel Dreher, 2003. "The Influence of Globalization on Taxes and Social Policy – an Empirical Analysis for OECD Countries," Public Economics 0310002, EconWPA, revised 27 Feb 2004.
  39. Stutzer, Alois, 2004. "The role of income aspirations in individual happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 89-109, May.
  40. Richard Feinberg, 2006. "Presidential mandates and ministerial institutions: Summitry of the Americas, the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 69-94, March.
  41. Axel Dreher & Noel Gaston, 2006. "Has globalization increased inequality?," KOF Working papers 06-140, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  42. Axel Dreher, 2006. "Does globalization affect growth? Evidence from a new index of globalization," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(10), pages 1091-1110.
  43. repec:ebd:wpaper:91 is not listed on IDEAS
  44. Thomas Romer & Howard Rosenthal, 1978. "Political resource allocation, controlled agendas, and the status quo," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 27-43, December.
  45. Yianos Kontopoulos & Roberto Perotti, 1999. "Government Fragmentation and Fiscal Policy Outcomes: Evidence from OECD Countries," NBER Chapters, in: Fiscal Institutions and Fiscal Performance, pages 81-102 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  46. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 1998. "Sources of Inefficiency in a Representative Democracy: A Dynamic Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 139-56, March.
  47. Jan- Sturm & Jakob de Haan, 2005. "Determinants of long-term growth: New results applying robust estimation and extreme bounds analysis," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 30(3), pages 597-617, October.
  48. Volkerink, Bjorn & De Haan, Jakob, 2001. " Fragmented Government Effects on Fiscal Policy: New Evidence," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 109(3-4), pages 221-42, December.
  49. Peggy Schyns, 1998. "Crossnational Differences in Happiness: Economic and Cultural Factors Explored," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 43(1), pages 3-26, February.
  50. repec:pse:psecon:2005-43 is not listed on IDEAS
  51. Ovaska, Tomi & Takashima, Ryo, 2006. "Economic policy and the level of self-perceived well-being: An international comparison," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 308-325, April.
  52. de Haan, Jakob & Sturm, Jan-Egbert, 1997. "Political and economic determinants of OECD budget deficits and government expenditures: A reinvestigation," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 739-750, December.
  53. Nouriel Roubini & Jeffrey Sachs, 1988. "Political and Economic Determinants of Budget Deficits in the IndustrialDemocracies," NBER Working Papers 2682, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  54. Beck, Thorsten & Clarke, George & Groff, Alberto & Keefer, Philip & Walsh, Patrick, 2000. "New tools and new tests in comparative political economy - the database of political institutions," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2283, The World Bank.
  55. Temple, Jonathan, 2000. "Growth Regressions and What the Textbooks Don't Tell You," Bulletin of Economic Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 52(3), pages 181-205, July.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:19290. 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: (LSERO Manager)

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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link 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 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.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.