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How's Life? Combining Individual and National Variables to Explain Subjective Well-Being

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  • John F. Helliwell

Abstract

This paper attempts to explain international and inter-personal differences in subjective well-being over the final fifth of the twentieth century. The empirical work makes use of data from three waves of the World Values survey covering about fifty different countries. The analysis proceeds in stages. First there is a brief review of some reasons for giving a key role to subjective measures of well-being. This is followed by a survey of earlier empirical studies, a description of the main variables used, a report of results and tests, and discussion of the links among social capital, education, income and well-being. The main innovation of the paper, relative to earlier studies of subjective well-being, lies in its use of large international samples of data combining individual and societal level variables, thus permitting the simultaneous identification of individual-level and societal-level determinants of well-being. This is particularly useful in identifying the direct and indirect linkages between social capital and well-being.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9065
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    1. Kaufmann, Daniel & Kraay, Aart & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 1999. "Governance matters," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2196, The World Bank.
    2. John F. Helliwell, 1996. "Economic Growth and Social Capital in Asia," NBER Working Papers 5470, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    14. John Helliwell, 2001. "Social Capital, the Economy and Well-being," The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress,in: Andrew Sharpe, Executive Director & France St-Hilaire, Vice-President , Research & Keith Banting, Di (ed.), The Review of Economic Performance and Social Progress 2001: The Longest Decade: Canada in the 1990s, volume 1 Centre for the Study of Living Standards;The Institutute for Research on Public Policy.
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    JEL classification:

    • F0 - International Economics - - General
    • I0 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General

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