Social Indicators Research

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 1–48 | Cite as

Livability of the welfare-state

Appreciation-of-life and length-of-life in nations varying in state-welfare-effort
  • Ruut Veenhoven
  • Piet Ouweneel


One issue in the debate on the welfare-state is whether state-care renders society more livable or not. The positive view is that people flourish in the welfare-state, the negative view is that people thrive better without. This article approaches the dispute empirically, by comparing livability of nations that differ in state-welfare-effort. The livability of nations is measured by the degree to which its citizens live long and happily. State-welfare-effect is measured by the scope of welfare-laws and the size of state-welfare-expenditures.

Data on average appreciation-of-life around 1980 are available for 28 nations; mostly rich ones. Appreciation-of-life appears somewhat greater in the nations that provide most state-welfare. However, that difference is entirely due to parallel differences in economic affluence. Data on change in life-satisfaction between 1950 and 1980 are available for only 10 nations, all rich ones. Life-satisfaction did not increase more in the nations where state-welfare expanded most.

Data on length-of-life in 1980 are available for 97 nations, of which 28 rich ones. Life-expectancy appears to be greater in the nations that provide most state-welfare, but again the difference disappears when income per head is controlled. Data on change in life-expectancy 1965–1985 are available for 35 nations. Gains in life-expectancy appear not greater in the nations were state-welfare expanded most.

It is concluded that state involvement in welfare provision does not create a more livable society. Apparently, non-state welfare works out equally well in present day conditions.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruut Veenhoven
    • 1
  • Piet Ouweneel
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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