nep-hap New Economics Papers
on Economics of Happiness
Issue of 2022‒09‒19
two papers chosen by
Viviana Di Giovinazzo
Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca

  1. What is wellbeing for rural South African women? Textual analysis of focus group discussion transcripts and implications for programme design and evaluation By Ferrari, Giulia
  2. Does Legal Freedom Satisfy? By Berggren, Niclas; Bjørnskov, Christian

  1. By: Ferrari, Giulia
    Abstract: Policy makers’ ultimate goal is to deliver the highest possible level of population welfare. Economists investigate the effect of socio-economic dimensions on wellbeing using unidimensional measures of life satisfaction or happiness as proxies for welfare. However, social psychologists have shown that wellbeing is a much broader construct and that an intervention may have opposite effects on its components. Unidimensional measures may hide these patterns. Most literature focuses on high-income countries. The growing evidence from low- and middle-income countries also largely relies on standard unidimensional measures. This study tests the validity of this reliance by exploring the wellbeing construct of South African women, quantitatively analysing textual data from focus group discussions to investigate whether unidimensional measures are appropriate in this context. It provides evidence against the indiscriminate use of unidimensional wellbeing measures. Cluster and correspondence analysis of the transcripts show that relevant domains of women’s wellbeing include relations with others, autonomy, and a perception of control over their environment (environmental mastery). Results also reveal that participants have a relational view of themselves, distinct from the individuated view predominant in the US and Europe and the collectivist view found in East Asia. Such relational self-perception modifies study participants’ wellbeing construct in ways that are important for policy implementation and evaluation. For example, women’s autonomy and environmental mastery rely on shared peer-identity to redefine rules and meet challenges. Wellbeing measures for policy evaluation would benefit from incorporating these insights to meaningfully measure progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 3 on ‘good health and wellbeing’ in South Africa and other contexts that exhibit similar concepts of wellbeing.
    JEL: J1
    Date: 2022–07–25
  2. By: Berggren, Niclas (Research Institute of Industrial Economics (IFN)); Bjørnskov, Christian (Aarhus University, Denmark)
    Abstract: Much political conflict in the world revolves around the issue of how much freedom to accord people. Liberal democracies are characterized by, e.g., the rule of law and a strong protection of civil rights, giving individuals a great deal of legally guaranteed freedom to lead their lives as they see fit. However, it is not known whether legal freedom suffices to make people satisfied with freedom. Our study explores that issue by relating seven indicators of legal freedom to the satisfaction people express with their freedom of choice. Using a sample of 133 countries over the period 2008–2018, and taking a panel-data approach, we find no robust baseline relationship. However, when exploring conditional associations by interacting the indicators with social trust and income inequality, the rule of law is positively and increasingly related to satisfaction with freedom above and below a threshold level. Freedom of assembly is more positive for satisfaction with freedom the higher the GDP per capita and in democracies. Thus, for some types of legal freedom, formal legal institutions are complementary with culture, income and the political system in generating satisfaction with freedom.
    Keywords: Freedom; Satisfaction; Well-being; Happiness; Civil rights; Rule of law
    JEL: K10 K38 P10
    Date: 2022–08–31

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