The Impact of Culture on Well-Being: Evidence from a Natural Experiment
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.
- Askitas, N., & Zimmermann, K. F. (2011). Health and well-being in the crisis. IZA Discussion Paper, No. 5601.Google Scholar
- Diener, E. (Ed.). (2009). Culture and well-being: The collected works of Ed Diener. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Diener, E., & Suh, E. M. (Eds.). (2000). Culture and subjective well-being. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Fernández, R. (2011). Does culture matter? In J. Benhabib, A. Bisin, & M. O. Jackson (Eds.), Handbook of social economics (Vol. 1, pp. 481–510). Amsterdam: North-Holland.Google Scholar
- Fernández, R., & Fogli, A. (2009). Culture: An empirical investigation of beliefs, work, and fertility. American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, 1(1), 146–177.Google Scholar
- Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2002). Happiness and economics: How the economy and institutions affect well-being. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Hajdu, T., & Hajdu, G. (2014). Reduction of income inequality and subjective well-being in Europe. Economics: The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, 8(35), 1–29.Google Scholar
- Inglehart, R., & Klingemann, H.-D. (2000). Genes, culture, democracy and happiness. In E. Diener & E. M. Suh (Eds.), Culture and subjective well-being (pp. 165–183). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Knoop, H. H., & Delle Fave, A. (Eds.). (2013). Well-Being and cultures. Perspectives from positive psychology. Dordrecht, NL: Springer.Google Scholar
- Luttmer, E. F. P., & Singhal, M. (2011). Culture, context, and the taste for redistribution. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 3(1), 157–179.Google Scholar
- OECD. (2013). OECD guidelines on measuring subjective well-being. Paris: OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
- Suh, E. M., & Koo, J. (2008). Comparing subjective well-being across cultures and nations. The “What” and “Why” Questions. In M. Eid & R. J. Larsen (Eds.), The science of subjective well-being (pp. 414–427). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Suh, E. M., & Oishi, S. (2002). Subjective Well-Being Across Cultures. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, Unit 10. http://scholarworks.gvsu.edu/orpc/vol10/iss1/1. Accessed November 24, 2011.
- Veenhoven, R. (1993). Happiness in nations: Subjective appreciation of life in 56 nations, 1946–1992. Erasmus University of Rotterdam, Department of Social Sciences, RISBO, Center for Socio-Cultural Transformation.Google Scholar