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Socioeconomic inequalities in subjective well-being among the 50+: contributions of income and health

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  • France Weaver
  • Judite Goncalves
  • Valerie-Anne Ryser

Abstract

Although there is a growing interest in subjective well-being (SWB) and its determinants, the extent of socioeconomic inequalities in SWB has not yet been analyzed. This study assesses socioeconomic inequalities in SWB in twelve European countries and the United States (US), by estimating concentration indices. They are then decomposed to document how individual income, relative income (i.e. how individual income compares to those of peers), individual health, and relative health contribute to these inequalities. The analysis focuses on the population aged 50 and over, using data from the ‘Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe’ and the ‘Health and Retirement Study’ for the US. All countries display some socioeconomic inequalities in SWB, with SWB being concentrated among individuals with higher socioeconomic status. Of the countries studied, the Netherlands and Belgium have the lowest socioeconomic inequalities in SWB, while Poland and the Czech Republic have the highest. The US has significantly higher inequalities than the former and significantly lower inequalities than the latter countries. The decomposition reveals that individual and relative health contribute largely to these inequalities in all countries. In contrast, individual and relative income matter in some countries, such as the US, and not in others, for example Spain. These results indicate that attention needs to be paid to socioeconomic inequalities in SWB of the baby boomers and elderly population and that, in most countries, policies focusing on health would be more effective at reducing them than targeting income.

Suggested Citation

  • France Weaver & Judite Goncalves & Valerie-Anne Ryser, 2015. "Socioeconomic inequalities in subjective well-being among the 50+: contributions of income and health," Research Papers by the Institute of Economics and Econometrics, Geneva School of Economics and Management, University of Geneva 15011, Institut d'Economie et Econométrie, Université de Genève.
  • Handle: RePEc:gen:geneem:15011
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    Keywords

    Socioeconomic inequalities; subjective well-being; income; health;

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