Subjective well-being in China is rising in urban areas

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Following up on my earlier post on income inequality in China, I want to post the main results from a new paper, Subjective Well-being in China, 2005-2010:
The Role of Relative Income, Gender and Location

  • Between 2005 and 2010 "self-reported happiness scores show an increase across all income groups" in China.
  • "women, urban residents and people with higher income are happier in China"
  • "More schooling, better health and being employed are positively and significantly correlated with well-being.

The paper starts by saying that the evidence on recent changes in well-being is mixed:

Despite the rapid rise in real income per capita and the human development index in recent years, subjective well-being appears not to have risen (Knight and Ramani, 2014). According to some studies, China has suffered a significant decrease in happiness during the last twenty years in the World Value Survey data.

... For urban China, Smyth and Qian (2008) find that those who perceive income distribution to be unequal report lower levels of happiness.

... Higher income aspirations can reduce people’s utility leaving the relationship between income and happiness unchanged if, following processes of adaptation and social comparison, income aspirations increase with people’s income as well as income of others in the community.

  1. The authors are M. Niaz Asadullah, Saizi Xiao, and Emile Kok-Kheng Yeoh. See their IZA Discussion paper No. 9637 ↩︎

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