IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Understanding life-satisfaction changes in post-apartheid South Africa

  • Bookwalter, Jeffrey
  • Fitch-Fleischmann, Benjamin
  • Dalenberg, Douglas

We analyze the large changes in the level and distribution of reported life satisfaction In South Africa from 1993 to 1998, a period spanning the end of apartheid and the creation of a more inclusive democracy. The percentage of black South Africans reporting dissatisfaction with their lives dropped by over two-thirds, despite only modest improvements in material living conditions. Using household surveys five years apart, we show that the vast majority (over 85 percent) of the improved life satisfaction is attributable to changes in the satisfaction derived from specific living conditions, not to changes in the actual level of those living conditions. While some of these shifts are likely attributed to the social churn at the end of apartheid, these changes also indicate changing opportunities for black South Africans. These results are consistent with hedonic adaptation and show that the factors that make people happier can change dramatically over a relatively short time period.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
File Function: original version
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 34579.

in new window

Date of creation: 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:34579
Contact details of provider: Postal: Schackstr. 4, D-80539 Munich, Germany
Phone: +49-(0)89-2180-2219
Fax: +49-(0)89-2180-3900
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  2. Geeta Kingdon & John Knight, 2004. "Community, Comparisons and Subjective Well-being in a Divided Society," Development and Comp Systems 0409067, EconWPA.
  3. Yew-Kwang Ng, 1996. "Happiness surveys: Some comparability issues and an exploratory survey based on just perceivable increments," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 38(1), pages 1-27, May.
  4. repec:oup:qjecon:v:120:y:2005:i:3:p:963-1002 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Oswald, Andrew J, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1815-31, November.
  6. Nicole Fuentes & Mariano Rojas, 2001. "Economic Theory and Subjective Well-being: Mexico," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 53(3), pages 289-314, March.
  7. Jeffrey Bookwalter & Douglas Dalenberg, 2004. "Subjective Well-Being and Household Factors in South Africa," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 65(3), pages 333-353, February.
  8. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur Stone, 2004. "Toward National Well-Being Accounts," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(2), pages 429-434, May.
  9. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2002. "How important is Methodology for the Estimates of the Determinants of Happiness?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 02-024/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  10. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2008. "Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
  11. Valerie Møller & Willem Saris, 2001. "The Relationship between Subjective Well-being and Domain Satisfactions in South Africa," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 55(1), pages 97-114, July.
  12. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2005. "Income and well-being: an empirical analysis of the comparison income effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 997-1019, June.
  13. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-84, July.
  14. Oaxaca, Ronald, 1973. "Male-Female Wage Differentials in Urban Labor Markets," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 14(3), pages 693-709, October.
  15. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  16. Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J., 2007. "Money and mental wellbeing: A longitudinal study of medium-sized lottery wins," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 49-60, January.
  17. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  18. Patrick Mcewan & Jeffery Marshall, 2004. "Why does academic achievement vary across countries? Evidence from Cuba and Mexico," Education Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(3), pages 205-217.
  19. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Preferences over inflation and unemployment: Evidence from surveys of happiness," ZEI Working Papers B 03-2001, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn.
  20. John M. Krieg & Paul Storer, 2006. "How Much Do Students Matter? Applying The Oaxaca Decomposition To Explain Determinants Of Adequate Yearly Progress," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 24(4), pages 563-581, October.
  21. Veenhoven, Ruut, 2001. "Why social policy needs subjective indicators," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Social Structure and Social Reporting FS III 01-404, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  22. McBride, Michael, 2001. "Relative-income effects on subjective well-being in the cross-section," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 251-278, July.
  23. van Praag, B. M. S. & Frijters, P. & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A., 2003. "The anatomy of subjective well-being," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 29-49, May.
  24. Clark, Andrew E. & Frijters, Paul & Shields, Michael A., 2007. "Relative Income, Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," IZA Discussion Papers 2840, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  25. Jeffrey Bookwalter & Brandon Fuller & Douglas Dalenberg, 2006. "Do Household Heads Speak for the Household? A Research Note," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 79(3), pages 405-419, December.
  26. Alan S. Blinder, 1973. "Wage Discrimination: Reduced Form and Structural Estimates," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 8(4), pages 436-455.
  27. Geeta Gandhi Kingdon & John Knight, 2006. "Subjective well-being poverty vs. Income poverty and capabilities poverty?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 42(7), pages 1199-1224.
  28. repec:chk:cuhked:_081 is not listed on IDEAS
  29. repec:zbw:rwidps:0049 is not listed on IDEAS
  30. Mathia Sinning & Markus Hahn & Thomas K. Bauer, 2008. "The Blinder–Oaxaca decomposition for nonlinear regression models," Stata Journal, StataCorp LP, vol. 8(4), pages 480-492, December.
  31. Sanjaya DeSilva & Yuval Elmelech, 2009. "Housing Inequality in the United States: A Decomposition Analysis of Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Homeownership," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_565, Levy Economics Institute.
  32. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1997. "A Case for Happiness, Cardinalism, and Interpersonal Comparability," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1848-58, November.
  33. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:34579. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Ekkehart Schlicht)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.