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How's Your Government? International Evidence Linking Good Government and Well-Being

  • John F. Helliwell
  • Haifang Huang

In this paper we employ World Values Survey measures of life satisfaction as though they were direct measures of utility, and use them to evaluate alternative features and forms of government in large international samples. We find that life satisfaction is more closely linked to several World Bank measures of the quality of government than to real per capita incomes, in simple correlations and more fully specified models explaining international differences in life satisfaction. We test for differences in the relative importance of different aspects of good government, and find a hierarchy of preferences that depends on the level of development. The ability of governments to provide a trustworthy environment, and to deliver services honestly and efficiently, appears to be of paramount importance for countries with worse governance and lower incomes. The balance changes once acceptable levels of efficiency, trust and incomes are achieved, when more value is attached to building and maintaining the institutions of electoral democracy.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11988.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11988.

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Date of creation: Jan 2006
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Publication status: published as Helliwell, John F. and Haifang Huang. "How's Your Government? International Evidence Linking Good Government and Well-Being." British Journal of Political Science 38 (2008): 595-619.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11988
Note: EFG POL
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  1. Knack, Stephen, 2000. "Social capital and the quality of Government : evidence from the U.S. States," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2504, The World Bank.
  2. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," IEW - Working Papers 015, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Robert J. Barro, 1989. "Economic Growth in a Cross Section of Countries," NBER Working Papers 3120, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Torsten Persson, 2001. "Do Political Institutions Shape Economic Policy?," NBER Working Papers 8214, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Torsten Persson, 2003. "Consequences of Constitutions," NBER Working Papers 10170, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Dani Rodrik & Arvind Subramanian & Francesco Trebbi, 2002. "Institutions Rule: The Primacy of Institutions over Geography and Integration in Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 9305, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. 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.
  8. John F. Helliwell, 1992. "Empirical Linkages Between Democracy and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 4066, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Stephen Knack, 2001. "Aid Dependence and the Quality of Governance: Cross-Country Empirical Tests," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 310-329, October.
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