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What Makes for a Better Life?: The Determinants of Subjective Well-Being in OECD Countries – Evidence from the Gallup World Poll


  • Romina Boarini


  • Margherita Comola


  • Conal Smith


  • Robert Manchin

    (Gallup Europe)

  • Femke de Keulenaer

    (Gallup Europe)


This paper uses data from the Gallup World Poll to explore the determinants of subjective well-being. The paper builds on the existing literature on the determinants of subjective well-being in three areas. First, the paper systematically examines the drivers of measures of affect as well as the determinants of life satisfaction that are more prevalent in the existing literature. Overall, items relating to health status, personal security, and freedom to choose what to do with one’s life appear to have a larger impact on affect balance when compared to life satisfaction, while economic factors such as income and unemployment have a more limited impact. The second part of the paper considers the degree to which there is heterogeneity in the weights assigned by different population sub-groups to the different determinants of subjective well-being. Relatively small differences are found between men and women, but priorities change significantly over the life course. Finally, the paper uses OECD data on the labour market and health policy regimes in different countries to test for the impact of these policy regimes on subjective well-being. Significant results are found for the replacement rate for unemployment assistance, employment protection legislation, and the extent of health co-payments. Although these results are tentative, they suggest that looking for the impact of policy changes on subjective well-being in large cross-country datasets is a promising area for research. Quels sont les facteurs qui influent sur notre qualité de vie ? : Les déterminants du bien-être subjectif dans les pays de l'OCDE - Données extraites de l'enquête Gallup World Poll Fondé sur des données issues de l’enquête Gallup World Poll, ce rapport analyse les déterminants du bien-être subjectif. Il est en outre étayé par les travaux antérieurs menés sur les facteurs du bien-être subjectif dans trois domaines. Tout d’abord, l’étude passe systématiquement en revue les caractéristiques des mesures relatives aux ressentis, ainsi que les critères qui déterminent la satisfaction à l’égard de la vie, qui sont plus répandus dans les publications existantes. Dans l’ensemble, les facteurs relatifs à l’état de santé, à la sécurité des personnes et à la liberté qu’ont les individus de choisir la vie qu’ils veulent mener semblent peser plus lourd dans la balance entre ressentis négatifs et ressentis positifs que la satisfaction à l’égard de l’existence, tandis que les facteurs économiques, comme le revenu et le chômage, ont une influence plus limitée. La deuxième partie du rapport examine dans quelle mesure l’importance accordée aux différents déterminants du bien-être subjectif varie en fonction des catégories de population. Si les écarts observés entre hommes et femmes sont relativement limités, il ressort que les priorités ne cessent d’évoluer tout au long de la vie. Enfin, le rapport s’appuie sur les données de l’OCDE relatives aux politiques nationales du marché du travail et de la santé pour évaluer l’impact de l’action publique sur le bien-être subjectif. Il semble que le taux de remplacement de l’assistance-chômage, la législation sur la protection de l’emploi et le niveau de participation des assurés sociaux au coût des soins jouent un rôle majeur. S’ils restent indicatifs, ces résultats donnent néanmoins à penser que l’étude de l’impact des réformes sur le bien-être subjectif dans les grandes séries de données internationales constitue un axe de recherche prometteur.

Suggested Citation

  • Romina Boarini & Margherita Comola & Conal Smith & Robert Manchin & Femke de Keulenaer, 2012. "What Makes for a Better Life?: The Determinants of Subjective Well-Being in OECD Countries – Evidence from the Gallup World Poll," OECD Statistics Working Papers 2012/3, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:stdaaa:2012/3-en

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    Cited by:

    1. Murtin, Fabrice & Boarini, Romina & Cordoba, Juan Carlos & Ripoll, Marla, 2017. "Beyond GDP: Is there a law of one shadow price?," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 390-411.
    2. Gunther Tichy, 2014. "Flexicurity – A Concept Doomed to Failure," WIFO Monatsberichte (monthly reports), WIFO, vol. 87(8), pages 537-553, August.
    3. Alem, Yonas & Colmer, Jonathan, 2013. "Optimal Expectations and the Welfare Cost of Climate Variability," Working Papers in Economics 578, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    4. Jad Chaaban & Alexandra Irani & Alexander Khoury, 2016. "The Composite Global Well-Being Index (CGWBI): A New Multi-Dimensional Measure of Human Development," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 129(1), pages 465-487, October.
    5. John Feddersen & Robert Metcalfe & Mark Wooden, 2012. "Subjective Well-Being: Weather Matters; Climate Doesn't," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2012n25, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
    6. Romina Boarini & Margherita Comola & Femke Keulenaer & Robert Manchin & Conal Smith, 2013. "Can Governments Boost People’s Sense of Well-Being? The Impact of Selected Labour Market and Health Policies on Life Satisfaction," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 114(1), pages 105-120, October.
    7. Rauf Gönenç & Oliver Röhn & Christian Beer & Andreas Wörgötter, 2013. "Responding to Key Well-being Challenges in Austria," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1080, OECD Publishing.
    8. Gunther Tichy, 2015. "Protecting social inclusion and mobility in a low growth scenario," WWWforEurope Working Papers series 100, WWWforEurope.
    9. Yonas Alem & Jonathan Colmer, 2013. "Don't Worry, Be Happy: The Welfare Cost of Climate Variability � A Subjective Well-Being Approach," GRI Working Papers 118, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
    10. Conal Smith & Christopher Mackie, 2015. "Conceptualizing Subjective Well-Being and its Many Dimensions – Implications for Data Collection in Official Statistics and for Policy Relevance," Statistics in Transition new series, Główny Urząd Statystyczny (Polska), vol. 16(3), pages 335-372, September.
    11. repec:spr:jhappi:v:18:y:2017:i:6:d:10.1007_s10902-016-9797-y is not listed on IDEAS

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