Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 1067–1090 | Cite as

Individual Well-Being, Geographical Heterogeneity and Social Capital

  • Isabel NeiraEmail author
  • Fernando Bruna
  • Marta Portela
  • Adela García-Aracil
Research Paper


This paper argues the relevance of analysing the origins of contextual effects to explain subjective well-being (SWB). Using the 2012 European Social Survey, the study applies social capital indicators to distinguish between-context and between-individual heterogeneity in three multilevel models of happiness and life satisfaction. Five indicators of social capital at individual and regional level are used to measure the trust, networks and norms dimensions of social capital. Random intercept and random slope hierarchical models are used to control for unexplained regional variability. The possibility of aggregated subjective perceptions conditioning, or interacting with, the effects of individual perceptions is also examined. The results show that the regional means of the social capital indicators are useful in explaining not only average levels of SWB (between-context heterogeneity) but also differences in the importance individuals attribute to their social capital (between-individual heterogeneity). The paper also proposes a research agenda to expand the frontier on contextual effects in the new science of well-being.


Happiness Life satisfaction Multilevel models Between-context Between-individual European regions 

JEL Classification

C51 C81 I31 Z13 



We are grateful to the participants of the Workshop of Socioeconomics and Economic Sociology (A Coruña 2016) and to anonymous referees for their helpful comments. The research for this paper was conducted as part of the research project ref. EDU-2013-45177-R ‘Education, Employability and Empowerment of the Youth’ (3E4Youth), funded by the National R&D Programme of the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness. The views expressed in this paper are not necessarily the views of that organization


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isabel Neira
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fernando Bruna
    • 2
  • Marta Portela
    • 3
  • Adela García-Aracil
    • 4
  1. 1.Quantitative Economics Department, Faculty of Economics and Business, INGENIO (CSIC-UPV)University of Santiago de CompostelaSantiago De CompostelaSpain
  2. 2.Economics and Business DepartmentUniversity of A CoruñaA CoruñaSpain
  3. 3.Department of Finance, Faculty of Business AdministrationUniversity of Santiago de CompostelaLugoSpain
  4. 4.INGENIO (CSIC-UPV), Spanish Council for Scientific ResearchUniversitat Politècnica de València, Ciudad Politécnica de la InnovaciónValenciaSpain

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