Advertisement

Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 19, Issue 8, pp 2489–2508 | Cite as

Social Networks and Subjective Well-Being: A Comparison of Australia, Britain, and China

  • Yanjie Bian
  • Mingsong HaoEmail author
  • Yaojun LiEmail author
Research Paper
  • 924 Downloads

Abstract

This paper is a comparative study of formal and informal social networks and their effects on subjective well-being in Australia, Britain, and China. Formal social networks are measured by group affiliations, and informal social networks are measured by personal connections with kin, friends, and acquaintances. An analysis of the national representative sample surveys from the three countries shows that the formal networks are of notable importance in increasing people’s subjective well-being in Britain and urban China, but the informal networks have much greater impacts in all three countries, particularly in rural China. We propose a cultural–structural interaction framework to explain the observed differences in the network influence on subjective well-being in the three countries.

Keywords

Social networks Subjective well-being Australia Britain China 

References

  1. Anderson, R. E. (2014). Human suffering and quality of life: Conceptualizing stories and statistics. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  2. Baum, F. E., Bush, R. A., Modra, C. C., Murray, C. J., Cox, E. M., Alexander, K. M., et al. (2000). Epidemiology of participation: An Australian community study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 54, 414–423.Google Scholar
  3. Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117, 497–529.Google Scholar
  4. Berry, H. L., & Welsh, J. A. (2010). Social capital and health in Australia: An overview from the household, income and labour dynamics in Australia survey. Social Science and Medicine, 70, 588–596.Google Scholar
  5. Bian, Y. (1994). Guanxi and the allocation of urban jobs in China. China Quarterly, 140, 971–999.Google Scholar
  6. Bian, Y. (1997). Bringing strong ties back in: Indirect ties, network bridges, and job searches in China. American Sociological Review, 62, 266–285.Google Scholar
  7. Bian, Y. (2001). Guanxi capital and social eating in Chinese cities: Theoretical models and empirical analyses. In N. Lin, K. S. Cook, & R. S. Burt (Eds.), Social capital: Theory and research (pp. 275–296). New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  8. Bian, Y. (2006). Guanxi. In J. Beckert & M. Zafirovski (Eds.), International encyclopedia of economic sociology (pp. 312–314). New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  9. Bian, Y. (2010). Relational sociology and its disciplinary status. Social Science Journal of Xi’an Jiaotong University, 30, 1–6. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  10. Bian, Y. (2017). The comparative significance of guanxi. Management and Organizational Research, 13, 161–267.Google Scholar
  11. Bian, Y. (in press). The prevalence and the increasing significance of guanxi. The China Quarterly.Google Scholar
  12. Bian, Y., & Ang, S. (1997). Guanxi networks and job mobility in China and Singapore. Social Forces, 75, 981–1005.Google Scholar
  13. Bian, Y., & Hao, M. (2013). Two dimensional social networks and their distributions: A China-Britain comparison. Journal of Sociological Research, 28, 78–97. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  14. Bian, Y., & Huang, X. (2015). Beyond the strength of social ties. American Behavioral Scientist, 59, 961–976.Google Scholar
  15. Bian, Y., Huang, X., & Zhang, L. (2015). Information and favoritism: The network effect on wage income in China. Social Networks, 40, 129–138.Google Scholar
  16. Bian, Y., & Xiao, Y. (2014). Subjective well-being in China and Britain. Journal of Sociological Research, 29, 22–42. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  17. Bian, Y., & Zhang, L. (2014). Corporate social capital in Chinese guanxi culture. Research in the Sociology of Organizations, 40, 417–439.Google Scholar
  18. Bian, Y., Zhang, L., Yang, J., Guo, X., & Lei, M. (2014). Subjective well-being of Chinese people: A multifaceted view. Social Indicators Research, 121, 75–92.Google Scholar
  19. Bjørnskov, C. (2003). The happy few: Cross-country evidence on social capital and life satisfaction. Kyklos, 56, 3–16.Google Scholar
  20. Blanden, J., Gregg, P., & Machin, S. (2005). Intergenerational mobility in Europe and North America. Report supported by the Sutton Trust, Centre for Economic Performance, London School of EconomicsGoogle Scholar
  21. Blau, P., & Schwartz, J. E. (1984). Crosscutting social circles: Testing a macro structural theory of intergroup elations. New Jersey: Transactions Publishers.Google Scholar
  22. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). New York: Greenwood.Google Scholar
  23. Burt, R. S. (1992). Structural holes: The social structure of competition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Burt, R. S., & Burzynska, K. (2017). Chinese entrepreneurs, social networks, and guanxi. Management and Organization Review, 13, 221–260.Google Scholar
  25. Chua, V. (2011). Social networks and labour market outcomes in a meritocracy. Social Networks, 33, 1–11.Google Scholar
  26. Coleman, J. S. (1990). Foundations of social theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Colman, A. M., Norris, C. E., & Preston, C. C. (1997). Comparing rating scales of different lengths: Equivalence of scores from 5-point and 7-point scales. Psychological Reports, 80, 355–362.Google Scholar
  28. Devine, F., & Li, Y. (2013). The changing relationship between origins, education and destinations in the 1990s and 2000s. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 34, 766–791.Google Scholar
  29. Dickens, W. T., & Lang, K. (1988). Labor market segmentation and the union wage premium. The Review of Economies and Statistics, 70, 527–530.Google Scholar
  30. Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55, 34–43.Google Scholar
  31. Diener, E., & Diener, C. (1995). The wealth of nations revisited: Income and quality of life. Social Indicators Research, 36, 275–286.Google Scholar
  32. DiTomaso, N., & Bian, Y. (2016). The structure of labor markets in the U.S. and China: Social networks and opportunity hoarding. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Seattle, U.S.Google Scholar
  33. Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 94–122.Google Scholar
  34. Durkheim, E. (1951). Suicide: A study in sociology. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  35. Easterlin, R. A. (1974). Does economic growth improve the human lot? Some empirical evidence. In P. David & M. Reder (Eds.), Nations and households in economic growth (pp. 89–125). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  36. Emmons, R. A., Cheung, C., & Tehrani, K. (1998). Assessing spirituality through personal goals: Implications for research on religion and subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 45, 391–422.Google Scholar
  37. Erikson, R., & Goldthorpe, J. H. (1992). The constant flux. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  38. Fei, X. (1992[1949]). From the soil: The foundations of Chinese society. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  39. Fried, M. H. (1969[1953]). The fabric of Chinese society: A study of the social life of a Chinese county seat. New York: Octagon Books.Google Scholar
  40. Gans, H. (1982[1962]). The urban villagers. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  41. George, L. K., & Landerman, R. (1984). Health and subjective well-being: A replicated secondary data analysis. International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 19, 133–156.Google Scholar
  42. Gold, T., Guthrie, D., & Wank, D. (2002). Social connections in China: Institutions, culture, and the changing nature of guanxi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Goldthorpe, J. H., & McKnight, A. (2006). The economic basis of social class. In S. L. Morgan, D. Grusky, & G. S. Fields (Eds.), Mobility and inequality: Frontiers of research in sociology and economics (pp. 109–136). California: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Goldthorpe, J. H., & Mills, C. (2008). Trends in intergenerational class mobility in modern Britain: Evidence from national surveys, 1972–2005. National Institute Economic Review, 205, 83–100.Google Scholar
  45. Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78, 1360–1380.Google Scholar
  46. Granovetter, M. S. (1985). Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology, 91, 481–510.Google Scholar
  47. Greenland, S., & Finkle, W. D. (1995). A critical look at methods for handling missing covariates in epidemiologic regression analyses. American Journal of Epidemiology, 142, 1255–1264.Google Scholar
  48. Hall, E. T. (1959). The silent language. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  49. Hall, P. (1999). Social capital in Britain. British Journal of Political Science, 29, 417–461.Google Scholar
  50. Haslam, S. A., Jetten, J., Postmes, T., & Haslam, C. (2009). Social identity, health, and well-being: An emerging agenda for applied psychology. Applied Psychology, 58, 1–23.Google Scholar
  51. Heath, A., & Cheung, S. Y. (2007). The comparative study of ethnic minority disadvantage. In A. Heath & S. Y. Cheung (Eds.), Unequal chances: Ethnic minorities in western labour markets (pp. 1–44). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Helliwell, J. F., & Putnam, R. D. (2004). The social context of well-being. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, 359, 1435–1446.Google Scholar
  53. House, J. S. (2008). Social psychology, social science, and economics: Twentieth century progress and problems, twenty-first century prospects. Social Psychology Quarterly, 71, 232–256.Google Scholar
  54. Huang, X., & Western, M. (2011). Social networks and occupational attainment in Australia. Sociology, 45, 269–286.Google Scholar
  55. Huang, X., & Western, M. (2015). Social capital and life satisfaction in Australia. In Y. Li (Ed.), The handbook of research methods and applications on social capital (pp. 225–241). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  56. Hwang, K. (1987). Face and favor: The Chinese power game. American Journal of Sociology, 92, 944–974.Google Scholar
  57. Jamieson, L. (1998). Intimacy: Personal relationships in modern societies. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  58. Ji, Y. (2013). Social organizations in contemporary China: Theoretical perspectives and empirical research. Journal of Sociological Research, 28, 219–241. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  59. Jin, J. (2010). Institutionalized official hostility and protest leader logic: A case study of a long-term Chinese peasant collective protest at Dahe Dam. In J. Broadbent & V. Brockman (Eds.), East Asian social movements: Power, protest and change in a dynamic region (pp. 413–435). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  60. King, A. Y. (1985). The individual and group in Confucianism: A relational perspective. In D. J. Munro (Ed.), Individualism and holism: Studies in confucian and taoist values. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan.Google Scholar
  61. King, A. Y. (1991). Kuan-hsi and network building: A sociological interpretation. Daedalus, 120, 63–84.Google Scholar
  62. Kipnis, A. B. (1997). Producing guanxi: Sentiment, self, and subculture in a North China village. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Li, Y. (2002). Falling off the ladder? Professional and managerial career trajectories and unemployment experiences. European Sociological Review, 18, 253–270.Google Scholar
  64. Li, Y. (2007). Social capital, social exclusion and well-being. In A. Scriven & S. Garman (Eds.), Public health: Social context and action (pp. 60–75). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  65. Li, Y. (2013). Social class and social capital in China and Britain: A comparative study. Social Inclusion, 1, 59–71.Google Scholar
  66. Li, Y. (2015). Social capital in sociological research: conceptual rigour and empirical application. In Y. Li (Ed.), The handbook of research methods and applications on social capital (pp. 1–20). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  67. Li, Y. (2016). Social mobility, social network and subjective well-being in the UK. Contemporary Social Research, 11(2–3), 222–237.Google Scholar
  68. Li, Y., & Devine, F. (2011). Is social mobility really declining? Intergenerational class mobility in Britain in the 1990s and the 2000s. Sociological Research Online. http://www.socresonline.org.uk/16/3/4.html.Google Scholar
  69. Li, Y., & Devine, F. (2014). Social mobility in Britain, 1991-2011. In L. Archer, A. Mann, & J. Stanley (Eds.), Understanding employer engagement in education: Theories and evidence (pp. 79–91). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  70. Li, Y., & Heath, A. (2016). Class matters: A study of minority and majority social mobility in Britain, 1982–2011. American Journal of Sociology, 122, 162–200.Google Scholar
  71. Li, Y., Heath, A., & Devine, F. (2015a). Formal and informal social connections in the UK. In Y. Li (Ed.), The handbook of research methods and applications on social capital (pp. 187–203). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  72. Li, Y., & Marsh, D. (2008). New forms of political participation: Searching for expert citizens and everyday makers. British Journal of Political Science, 38, 247–272.Google Scholar
  73. Li, Y., Pickles, A., & Savage, M. (2005). Social capital and social trust in Britain. European Sociological Review, 21, 109–123.Google Scholar
  74. Li, Y., Savage, M., & Pickles, A. (2003). Social capital and social exclusion in England and Wales (1972–1999). British Journal of Sociology, 54, 497–526.Google Scholar
  75. Li, Y., Zhang, S., & Kong, J. (2015b). Social mobility in China and Britain: A comparative study. International Review of Social Research, 5, 20–34.Google Scholar
  76. Liang, S. (1986[1949]). The essential meanings of Chinese culture. Hong Kong: Zheng Zhong Press. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  77. Lim, C., & Putman, R. D. (2010). Religion, social networks, and life satisfaction. American Sociological Review, 75, 914–933.Google Scholar
  78. Lin, N. (1982). Social resources and instrumental action. In P. V. Marsden & N. Lin (Eds.), Social structure and network analysis (pp. 131–145). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  79. Lin, N. (2001). Social capital. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Lin, N., Ensel, W. M., & Vaughn, J. C. (1981). Social resources and strength of ties: Structural factors in occupational status attainment. American Sociological Review, 46, 393–405.Google Scholar
  81. Lindbeck, A., & Snower, D. J. (1986). Wage setting, unemployment, and insider–outsider relations. American Economic Review, 76, 235–239.Google Scholar
  82. Marsden, P. V., & Campbell, K. E. (1984). Measuring tie strength. Social Forces, 63, 482–501.Google Scholar
  83. Muttarak, R. (2014). Generation, ethnic and religious diversity in friendship choice: Exploring interethnic close ties in Britain. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 37, 71–98.Google Scholar
  84. Myers, D. G. (2000). The funds, friends, and faith of happy people. American Psychologist, 55, 56–67.Google Scholar
  85. Pahl, R. E. (2000). On friendship. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  86. Pollner, M. (1989). Divine relations, social relations, and well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 30, 92–104.Google Scholar
  87. Portes, A. (1998). Social capital: Its origins and applications in modern society. Annual Review of Sociology, 24, 1–24.Google Scholar
  88. Putnam, R. D. (1995). Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital. The Journal of Democracy, 6, 65–78.Google Scholar
  89. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  90. Rabe-Hesketh, S., & Skrondal, A. (2012). Multilevel and longitudinal modelling using stata (3rd ed., Vol. I & II). College Station, TX: Stata Press.Google Scholar
  91. Richards, L. (2016). For whom money matters less: Social connectedness as a resilience resource in the UK. Social Indicators Research, 125, 509–535.Google Scholar
  92. Ruan, D., Zhou, L., Blau, P. M., & Walder, A. G. (1987). An exploratory analysis of urban people’s social networks in Tianjin City and comparing with American people. Social Sciences in China, 2, 157–176. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  93. Song, L. (2011). Social capital and psychological distress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 52, 478–492.Google Scholar
  94. Sun, L. (1996). ‘Guanxi’, social ties and social structure. Journal of Sociological Research, 11, 22–32. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  95. Thoits, P. A. (2011). Mechanisms linking social ties and support to physical and mental health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 52, 145–161.Google Scholar
  96. Walder, A. G. (1986). Communist neo-traditionalism: Work and authority in Chinese industry. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  97. Western, M. (1991). Class and stratification arrangements for socioeconomic inequality under capitalism. Australian Journal of Political Science, 26, 378–380.Google Scholar
  98. Western, M. (1994). Intergenerational class mobility among women and men. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology, 30, 303–321.Google Scholar
  99. Whyte, M. K., & Parish, W. L. (1984). Urban life in contemporary China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  100. Yan, Y. (1996). The culture of guanxi in a North China village. China Journal, 35, 1–25.Google Scholar
  101. Yang, M. M. (1994). Gifts, favors, and banquets: The art of social relationships in China. Wilder House, 93, 559–565.Google Scholar
  102. Zhai, X. (2009). Is it ‘guanxi’ or social capital? Chinese Journal of Sociology, 29, 109–121. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  103. Zhang, W. (2008). The changing patterns of social networks capital in the process of social transformation. Chinese Journal of Sociology, 3, 73–80. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  104. Zhao, Y., Li, Y., Heath, A., & Shryane, N. (2017). Inter- and intra-generational mobility effects on happiness in mainland China. Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, 48, 54–66.Google Scholar
  105. Zheng, X., & Rabe-Hesketh, S. (2007). Estimating parameters of dichotomous and ordinal item response models with gllamm. The Stata Journal, 7, 313–333.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IESSRXi’an Jiaotong UniversityXi’anChina
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.University of ManchesterManchesterUK

Personalised recommendations