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Well-Being, Social Capital and Public Policy: What's New?


  • John Helliwell


This paper summarizes recent empirical research on the determinants of subjective well-being. Results from national and international samples suggest that measures of social capital, including especially the corollary measures of specific and general trust, have substantial effects on well-being beyond those flowing through economic channels. Cross-national samples (supported by parallel analysis of suicide data) show large well-being effects from social capital and from the quality of government. Finally, Canadian life-satisfaction data show that several non-financial job characteristics, and especially the climate of workplace trust, have very large income-equivalent effects.

Suggested Citation

  • John Helliwell, 2005. "Well-Being, Social Capital and Public Policy: What's New?," NBER Working Papers 11807, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11807
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kaufmann, Daniel & Kraay, Aart & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 1999. "Governance matters," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2196, The World Bank.
    2. Frey, Bruno S & Stutzer, Alois, 2000. "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(466), pages 918-938, October.
    3. Andrew E. Clark & Ed Diener & Yannis Georgellis & Richard E. Lucas, 2008. "Lags And Leads in Life Satisfaction: a Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(529), pages 222-243, June.
    4. Helliwell, John F. & Huang, Haifang, 2008. "How's Your Government? International Evidence Linking Good Government and Well-Being," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 38(04), pages 595-619, October.
    5. Bernard M. S. van Praag & Barbara E. Baarsma, 2005. "Using Happiness Surveys to Value Intangibles: The Case of Airport Noise," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(500), pages 224-246, January.
    6. Daniel Kaufmann & Aart Kraay & Massimo Mastruzzi, 2003. "Governance Matters III: Governance Indicators for 1996-2002," Macroeconomics 0308006, EconWPA.
    7. John Helliwell, 2007. "Well-Being and Social Capital: Does Suicide Pose a Puzzle?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 81(3), pages 455-496, May.
    8. John F. Helliwell & Haifang Huang, 2010. "How's the Job? Well-Being and Social Capital in the Workplace," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 63(2), pages 205-227, January.
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    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification
    • P52 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Studies of Particular Economies

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