Social Indicators Research

, Volume 78, Issue 3, pp 405–428 | Cite as

Subjective Well-Being, Societal Condition and Social Policy – The Case Study of a Rich Chinese Society

  • Chack Kie WongEmail author
  • Ka Ying Wong
  • Bong Ho Mok


The article looks at whether or not social policy and other societal-condition variables contribute to the subjective well-being of life satisfaction. It firstly argues that social policy needs to pay more attention to the study of subjective well-being. Then, it reviews the literature and finds that people in rich societies generally have higher levels of life satisfaction. But the findings of a social survey on the level of and variance in life satisfaction in a rich Chinese society reveal the contrary. The empirical data reflects a life satisfaction pattern along strong income and class lines. It also confirms that social policy and other societal-condition variables have different degrees of impact on life satisfaction. At last, implications of the findings for social policy are discussed.

Key words

attitude study life satisfaction social policy subjective well-being welfare indicators 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Chan Y.K., Kwan C.C. and Shek D. (2003). Quality of Life in Hong Kong – The Chinese University of Hong Kong Quality of Life Index. The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong KongGoogle Scholar
  2. Chau, R.C.M. and W.K. Yu: 2005, Is welfare unAsian? in Walker, A. and Wong, C.K. (eds.), East Asian Welfare Regimes in Transition, From Confucianism to Globalisation (Policy Press, Bristol), pp. 21–45Google Scholar
  3. Chau, K.L. and C.K. Wong: 2002, in S. K. Lau (ed.), The Social Welfare Reform: A Way to reduce Public Burden, The First Tung Chee-wah Administration (The Chinese University Press), pp. 201–236Google Scholar
  4. Chiu S. and Wong V. (2005). Hong Kong: familistic to Confucian welfare. In: Walker, A. and Wong, C. K. (eds) East Asian Welfare Regimes in Transition: From Confucianism to Globalization, pp 73–93. Policy Press, BristolGoogle Scholar
  5. Cheung C.K. (1998). Impacts of class on Hong Kong people’s well-being. Human Relations 51(1): 89–119Google Scholar
  6. Christoph B. and Noll H.-H. (2003). Subjective well-being in the European Union during the 90s. Social Indicators Research 64(3): 521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Campbell A. and Sawer W. (1976). Life satisfaction in the United States. Social Forces 54(3): 621–631CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Diener E., Diener M. and Diener C. (1995). Factors predicting the subjective well-being of nations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 5: 851–864CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diener E. and Diener C. (1996). Most people are happy. Psychological Science 7: 181–185 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Diener E. and Biswas-Diener R. (2002). Will money increase subjective well-being?. Social Indicators Research 57: 119–169CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Diener E., Emmons R.A., Larsen R.J. and Griffin S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment 49: 71–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diener E. and Lucas R.E. (1999). Personality and subjective well-being. In: Kahneman, D., Diener, E. and Schwarz, N. (eds) The Foundations of Hedonic Psychology, pp. Sage, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. Diener E., Suh E.M., Smith H.L. and Shao L. (1995). National cultural differences in reported subjective well-being: Why do they occur?. Social Indicators Research 34: 7–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Diener, E., E.M. Suh and S. Oishi: 1997, Recent findings in subjective well-being, Indian Journal of Clinical Psychology March 24, pp. 25–41Google Scholar
  15. Diener E. and Suh E.M. (1997). Measuring quality of life: economic, social and subjective indicators. Social Indicators Research 40: 189–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Diener E., Suh E.M., Lucas R.E. and Smith H.L. (1999). Subjective well-being Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin 125(2): 276–302CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fahey T. and Smyth E. (2004). Do subjective indicators measure welfare? Evidence from 33 European societies. European Societies 6(1): 5–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fernandez R. and Kulik J. (1981). A multilevel model of life satisfaction: effects of individual characteristics and neighborhood composition. American Sociological Review December: 840–850CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goldlust J. and Richmond A.H. (1974). Multivariate Analysis of Immigrant Adaptation: A Study of Male Householders in Metropolitan Toronto. Ethnic Research Program, York University, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  20. Hagerty M.R. (1999). Unifying livability and comparison theory: cross-national time-series analysis of life satisfaction. Social Indicators Research 47(3): 343–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hagerty M.R. and Veenhoven R. (2003). Wealth and happiness revisited – growing national income does not go with greater happiness. Social Indicators Research 64(1): 1–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Holliday I. (2000). ‘Productivist Welfare Capitalism: Social Policy in East Asia’. Political Studies 48: 706–723CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Holliday, I., and P. Wilding (eds.): 2003, Welfare Capitalism in East Asia: Social Policy in the Tiger Economies (Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire, NY)Google Scholar
  24. Hong S.M. and Giannakopoulos E. (1994). The relationship of satisfaction with life to personality characteristics. The Journal of Psychology 128(5): 1–8(internet version)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hughes M. and Thomas M. (1998). The continuing significance of race revisited: a study of race, class and quality of life in America, 1972 to 1996. American Sociological Review 63(6): 785–795CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Inglehart R. (2000). Globalization and postmodern values. The Washington Quarterly 23(1): 215–228CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kasser T. and Ryan R.M. (1993). A dark side of the American dream: correlates of financial success as a central life aspiration. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65: 410–422CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Maslow A.H. (1970). Motivation and Personality. Harper and Row, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  29. McLaughlin E. (1993). Hong Kong: a residual welfare regime. In: Cochrane, A. and Clarke, J. (eds) Comparing Welfare States: Britain in International Context, pp. Sage, London, Newbury Park, New DelhiGoogle Scholar
  30. Noll H.-H. (2002). Towards a European System of Social Indicators: Theoretical Framework and system architecture. Social Indicators Research 58: 47–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Oswald A.J. (1997). Happiness and economic performance. Economic Journal 107: 1815–1831CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ouweneel P. (2002). Social security and well-being of the unemployed in 42 nations. Journal of Happiness 3: 167–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ramesh M. (2004). Social Policy in East and Southeast Asia. Routledge Curzon, London, NYGoogle Scholar
  34. Richins M.L. and Dawson S. (1992). A consumer values orientation for materialism and its measurement: scale development and validation. Journal of Consumer Research 19: 303–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Schyns P. (1998). Crossnational differences in happiness: economic and cultural factors explored. Social Indicators Research 43: 3–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sirgy M.J. (1998). Materialism and quality of life. Social Indicators Research 43: 227–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Walker A. and Wong C.K. (1996). Rethinking the Western Construction of the Welfare State. International Journal of Health Services 26(1): 67–92Google Scholar
  38. Walker A. and Wong C.K. (2005). East Asian Welfare Regimes in Transition, From Confucianism to Globalisation. Policy Press, BristolGoogle Scholar
  39. Wong C.K. and Wong K.Y. (2005). Expectations and practice in social citizenship: some insights from an attitude survey in a Chinese city. Social Policy and Administration 39(1): 19–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Veenhoven R. (1991). Is happiness relative?. Social Indicators Research 24: 1–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Veenhoven R. (1995). The cross-national pattern of happiness: test of predictions implied in three theories of happiness. Social Indicators Research 34: 33–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Veenhoven R. (2002). Why social policy needs subjective indicators. Social Indicators Research 58: 33–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Work DepartmentThe Chinese University of Hong KongShatin, NTHong Kong

Personalised recommendations