The Impact of Culture on Well-Being: Evidence from a Natural Experiment
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This paper examines the effect of culture on subjective well-being. By exploiting the natural experiment of migration we are able to separate the effect of culture (intrinsic cultural disposition, values, beliefs, norms) from other extrinsic institutional, economic and social factors. Using data from five rounds of the European Social Survey we find that holding constant the external environment (living in the same residence country) and controlling for the important socio-demographic attributes, immigrants from countries with high levels of life satisfaction report higher life satisfaction than immigrants from countries with low levels of life satisfaction. The effect of satisfaction in the birth country lasts across generations and is stronger for immigrants who are more attached to the culture of their birth country. Since any observed differences among the immigrants is their cultural background (their birth countries), the results can be interpreted as the effect of culture on life satisfaction. Our results suggest that besides economic and social variables, institutions and personal characteristics, cultural factors play an important role in satisfaction.
KeywordsSubjective well-being Life satisfaction Culture Beliefs Values International comparison European Social Survey
We thank Gábor Kézdi, Matild Sági and Endre Sik for their comments, as well as participants in the HAS Institute for Sociology Young Researchers’ Conference (Budapest, December 2011), and the 11th ISQOLS Conference (Venice, November 2012). We also thank the useful comments of two anonymous reviewers. Remaining errors are solely ours.
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