Social Capital and Individual Happiness in Europe
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This paper explores the relationship between social capital and happiness both in Europe as a whole, as well as in its four main geographical macro-regions—North, South, East and West—separately. We test the hypothesis of whether social capital, in its three-fold definition established by Coleman (Am J Sociol 94:S95–S120 1988)—trust, social interaction, and norms and sanctions—influences individual happiness across European countries and regions. The concept of social capital is further enriched by incorporating Putnam (Making democracy work—civic traditions in modern Italy. Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1993) and Olson (The rise and decline of nations—economic growth, stagflation, and social rigidities. Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 1982) type variables on associational activity. Using ordinal logistic regression analysis on data for 48,583 individuals from 25 European countries, we reach three main findings. First, social capital matters for happiness across the three dimensions considered. Second, the main drivers of the effects of social capital on happiness appear to be informal social interaction and general social, as well as institutional trust. And third, there are significant differences in how social capital interacts with happiness across different areas of Europe, with the connection being at is weakest in the Nordic countries.
KeywordsSocial capital Happiness Trust Social interaction Norms and effective sanctions Europe
We are grateful to the editor of the Journal of Happiness Studies, Antonella delle Fave, its coeditor for economics, Stephanie Rossouw, and a number of anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and suggestions to successive drafts of this paper. The research leading to this paper would not have been possible without the generous financial support of the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement no 269868.
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