Social Indicators Research

, Volume 89, Issue 1, pp 179-191

First online:

Welfare Policy and Subjective Well-Being Across Nations: An Individual-Level Assessment

  • Alexander C. PacekAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Texas A&M University Email author 
  • , Benjamin RadcliffAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, Notre Dame University

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In the vast and diverse literature on determinants of life-satisfaction and happiness, there is a relative dearth of empirical research on the role of specifically political factors. We identify one such possible factor, the industrial welfare state, and assess its impact on how individuals perceive their well-being. The voluminous literature on the welfare state highlights its position as one of the most profound chapters in the latter-day human experience, but focuses on its indirect effects on well-being through economic and social conditions. We contend that the welfare state exerts a more direct effect to the extent that individuals experience very real impacts on their quality of life. Considering individual responses in 18 industrial democracies from 1981 to 2000, we find that welfare state generosity exerts a positive and significant impact on life-satisfaction and happiness. We discuss implications for further research generated by these findings.


Welfare Policy Subjective well-being Happiness Life-satisfaction