Advertisement

Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 20, Issue 8, pp 2747–2771 | Cite as

Happiness Inequality in China

  • Jidong Yang
  • Kai LiuEmail author
  • Yiran Zhang
Research Paper

Abstract

Along with China becoming an upper-middle-income country from a lower-middle-income one after 2009, happiness inequality in China has been enlarged. Based on the Chinese General Social Survey database (2003–2015), this paper investigates the determinants of happiness inequality in China and explores what factors contribute to its enlargement after 2009. We find that a rise of income inequality as well as the population share of middle age cohorts can widen China’s happiness inequality, while an increase in income or education level has a reducing impact. Being in employment also has happiness inequality reducing impacts. A decomposition analysis shows that the deterioration of China’s happiness inequality is mainly caused by coefficient effects, i.e., the relationships between happiness inequality and its influencing factors have changed, which reflects the dramatic change in the Chinese economy and society. Among the coefficient effects, regional heterogeneity plays an important role. Policies enhancing economic performance and education as well as reducing income inequality and regional inequality can help to mitigate happiness inequality and improve social harmony in China.

Keywords

Happiness inequality Income Income inequality Education China 

JEL Classification

I31 I28 J17 J21 J28 

Notes

References

  1. Appleton, S., & Song, L. (2008). Life satisfaction in urban China: Components and determinants. World Development,36(11), 2325–2340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asadullah, M. N., Xiao, S., & Yeoh, E. (2018). Subjective well-being in China, 2005–2010: The role of relative income, gender, and location. China Economic Review,48, 83–101.Google Scholar
  3. Becchetti, L., Massari, R., & Naticchioni, P. (2014). The drivers of happiness inequality: Suggestions for promoting social cohesion. Oxford Economic Papers,66(2), 419–442.Google Scholar
  4. Beegle, K., Himelein, K., & Ravaillon, M. (2012). Frame-of-reference bias in subjective welfare regressions. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization,81(2), 556–570.Google Scholar
  5. Cheng, Z. (2014). The effects of employee involvement and participation on subjective well-being: Evidence from urban China. Social Indicators Research,118(2), 457–483.Google Scholar
  6. Cheng, Z., Prakash, K., Smyth, R., & Wang, H. (2018). Housing wealth and happiness in urban China. Working paper.Google Scholar
  7. Cheng, Z., Wang, H., & Smyth, R. (2014). Happiness and job satisfaction in urban China: A comparative study of two generations of migrants and urban locals. Urban Studies,51(10), 2160–2184.Google Scholar
  8. Chernozhukov, V., Fernández-Val, I., & Melly, B. (2013). Inference on counterfactual distributions. Econometrica,81(6), 2205–2268.Google Scholar
  9. Chin-Hon-Foei, S. (1989). Life satisfaction in the EC countries, 1975–1984. In R. Veenhoven (Ed.), Did the crisis really hurt? (pp. 24–43). Rotterdam: Universitaire Pers Rotterdam.Google Scholar
  10. Chyi, H., & Mao, S. (2012). The determinants of happiness of China’s elderly population. Journal of Happiness Studies,13(1), 167–185.Google Scholar
  11. Clark, A. E., Flèche, S., & Senik, C. (2012). The great happiness moderation. IZA discussion paper, no. 6761 (pp. 1–53).Google Scholar
  12. Clark, A. E., Flèche, S., & Senik, C. (2016). Economic growth evens out happiness: Evidence from six surveys. Review of Income and Wealth,62(3), 405–419.Google Scholar
  13. Clark, A. E., Frijters, P., & Shields, M. (2008). Relative income, happiness, and utility: An explanation for the Easterlin paradox and other puzzles. Journal of Economic Literature,46(1), 96–144.Google Scholar
  14. Dutta, I., & Foster, J. (2013). Inequality of happiness in the U.S.: 1972–2010. Review of Income and Wealth,59(3), 393–415.Google Scholar
  15. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A., & Frijters, P. (2004). How important is methodology for the estimates of the determinants of happiness? Economic Journal,114(497), 641–659.Google Scholar
  16. Firpo, S., Fortin, N. M., & Lemieux, T. (2009). Unconditional quantile regressions. Econometrica,77(3), 953–973.Google Scholar
  17. Firpo, S., Fortin, N. M., & Lemieux, T. (2018). Decomposing wage distributions using recentered influence function regressions. Econometrics, MDPI, Open Access Journal,6(2), 1–40.Google Scholar
  18. Fortin, N., Lemieux, T., & Firpo, S. (2012). Decomposition methods in economics. Handbook of Labor Economics,4, 1–102.Google Scholar
  19. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2002). What can economists learn from happiness research? Journal of Economic Literature,40, 402–435.Google Scholar
  20. Gandelman, N., & Porzecanski, R. (2013). Happiness inequality: How much is reasonable? Social Indicators Research,110(1), 257–269.Google Scholar
  21. Goff, L., Helliwell, J. F., & Mayraz, G. (2016). The welfare costs of well-being inequality. NBER working paper, no. 21900.Google Scholar
  22. Guan, H. (2010). The impact of income on happiness: Absolute and relative measures. Nankai Economic Studies,05, 56–70. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  23. Guimaraes, B., & Sheedy, K. D. (2012). A model of equilibrium institutions. CEPR discussion papers, no. 8855.Google Scholar
  24. Hampel, F. R. (1974). The influence curve and its role in robust estimation. Journal of the American Statistical Association,69(346), 383–393.Google Scholar
  25. He, L. Y., & Lu, Y. P. (2011). Corruption, social trust and subjective well-being. In 11th China institutional economics conference proceedings working paper (pp. 340–353). http://cpfd.cnki.com.cn/Article/CPFDTOTAL-BJDT201110002031.htm. (in Chinese).
  26. He, L. X., & Pan, C. Y. (2011). Uncover the “Easterlin paradox” of China: Income gap, inequality of opportunity and happiness. Management World,08, 11–22. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  27. Helliwell, J. F., Huang, H., & Wang, S. (2016). The distribution of world happiness, chapter 2. In J. F. Helliwell, R. Layard, & J. Sachs (Eds.), World happiness report update 2016. New York: Sustainable Development Solutions Network.Google Scholar
  28. Huang, Y., & Yi, C. (2010). Consumption and tenure choice of multiple homes in transitional urban China. European Journal of Housing Policy,10(2), 105–131.Google Scholar
  29. Ifcher, J., & Zarghamee, H. (2016). Inequality of happiness: Evidence of the compression of the subjective-wellbeing distribution with economic growth. In K. Basu, & J. E. Stiglitz (Eds)., Inequality and growth: Patterns and policy. International Economic Association Series. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  30. Jiang, S. Q., Lu, M., & Sato, H. (2012). Identity, inequality, and happiness: Evidence from urban China. World Development,40(6), 1190–1200.Google Scholar
  31. Kalmijn, W., & Veenhoven, R. (2005). Measuring inequality of happiness in nations: In search for proper statistics. Journal of Happiness Studies,6(4), 357–396.Google Scholar
  32. Levinson, A. (2012). Valuing public goods using happiness data: The case of air quality. Journal of Public Economics,96(9), 869–880.Google Scholar
  33. Liang, Y., & Wang, P. (2014). Influence of prudential value on the subjective well-being of Chinese urban–rural residents. Social Indicators Research,118(3), 1249–1267.Google Scholar
  34. Lin, J., Zhou, S. J., & Wei, W. Q. (2012). Price of urban real estate, housing property and subjective well-being. Finance & Trade Economics,05, 114–120. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  35. Liu, J. Q., Xiong, M. L., & Su, Y. (2012). National sense of happiness in the economic growth period: A study based on CGSS data. Social Sciences in China,12(5), 82–102. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  36. Luechinger, S. (2010). Life satisfaction and transboundary air pollution. Economics Letters,107(1), 4–6.Google Scholar
  37. Luo, C. L. (2006). Urban–rural divide, employment, and subjective well-being. China Economic Quarterly,5(3), 817–840. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  38. Machado, J. A. F., & Mata, J. (2005). Counterfactual decomposition of changes in wage distributions using quantile regression. Journal of Applied Econometrics,20(4), 445–465.Google Scholar
  39. Madden, D. (2011). The impact of an economic boom on the level and distribution of subjective well-being: Ireland, 1994–2001. Journal of Happiness Studies,12(4), 667–679.Google Scholar
  40. Nielsen, I., Smyth, R., & Zhai, Q. (2010). Subjective well-being of China’s off-farm migrants. Journal of Happiness Studies,11(3), 315–333.Google Scholar
  41. Niimi, Y. (2018). What affects happiness inequality? Evidence from Japan. Journal of Happiness Studies,19(2), 521–543.Google Scholar
  42. Ott, J. C. (2011). Government and happiness in 130 nations: Good governance fosters higher level and more equality of happiness. Social Indicators Research,102(1), 3–22.Google Scholar
  43. Ovaska, T., & Takashima, R. (2010). Does a rising tide lift all the boats? Explaining the national inequality of happiness. Journal of Economic Issues,44(1), 205–224.Google Scholar
  44. Qian, Y., & Qian, Z. (2015). Work, family, and gendered happiness among married people in urban China. Social Indicators Research,121(1), 61–74.Google Scholar
  45. Stevenson, B., & Wolfers, J. (2008). Happiness inequality in the United States. Journal of Legal Studies,37(S2), S33–S79.Google Scholar
  46. Sun, S. B., Huang, W., Hong, J. J., & Wang, J. H. (2014). City size, happiness and spatial optimization of migration. Economic Research Journal,49(1), 97–111. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  47. Van Praag, B. M. S. (2011). Well-being inequality and reference groups: An agenda for new research. Journal of Economic Inequality,9(1), 111–127.Google Scholar
  48. Veenhoven, R. (2005). Return of inequality in modern society? Test by dispersion of life-satisfaction across time and nations. Journal of Happiness Studies,6(4), 457–487.Google Scholar
  49. Wang, P. (2011). The impact of income inequality on subjective well-being: Evidence from Chinese general social survey data. Chinese Journal of Population Science,03, 93–112. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  50. Wang, P., & Vander Weele, T. J. (2011). Empirical research on factors related to the subjective well-being of Chinese urban residents. Social Indicators Research,101(3), 447–459.Google Scholar
  51. Wu, X., & Cheng, J. (2013). The emerging new middle class and the rule of law in China. China Review,13(1), 43–70.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EconomicsRenmin University of ChinaBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations