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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.

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

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:34579
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