Social Indicators Research

, Volume 97, Issue 1, pp 85–104 | Cite as

Economic, Social, and Cultural Determinants of Life Satisfaction: Are there Differences Between Asia and Europe?

  • Wolfgang JagodzinskiEmail author


This paper investigates the influence of the economic, social, and cultural variables on life satisfaction in Asia and Europe. The second section sets a unifying theoretical framework for all three domains by defining life satisfaction as a function of aspirations and expectations which in turn are affected by micro- and macro-level variables. On the micro-level, economic capital is a resource for the actor. On the macro-level, societal economic capital improves the opportunity structure for the individual under certain conditions. Thus, economic capital on both levels positively affects the perceived chances of fulfilling aspirations. As long as the latter remain unchanged life satisfaction will increase. Social and cultural factors partially follow the same logic, as indicated by the terms social and cultural capital. Under a set of assumptions, the hypotheses derived are that personal and societal economic capital, national pride and national integration, religiosity, and societal religious integration, all positively affect the life satisfaction of the individual. A multi-level analysis of data from the European Values Study and the AsiaBarometer confirms the micro-level hypotheses. The economic macro-level indicators also display the theoretically expected positive effect on life satisfaction in the multivariate analysis of Asian and European data. By contrast, the direct cross-level effects of a society’s national integration and particularly of religion do not become significant in Europe, yet they are highly significant in Asia. This strong influence of the social and cultural context in Asia can be interpreted in two different ways.


Happiness Subjective wellbeing Life satisfaction Asia Europe Culture Multi-level-analysis 


  1. Argyle, M. (2001). The psychology of happiness. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Berger, P., & Luckmann, T. (1967). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  3. Bjornskov, C., Dreher, A., & Fischer, J. A. V. (2007). Cross-country determinants of life satisfaction: Exploring different determinants across groups in society. Social Choice and Welfare, 30(1), 119–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blank, T., & Schmidt, P. (2003). National identity in a United Germany: Nationalism or patriotism? An empirical test with representative data. Political Psychology, 24(2), 289–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boudon, R. (1982). The unintended consequences of social action. New York: St. Martin’s Press.Google Scholar
  6. 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 Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P. (2005). The social structures of the economy. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  8. Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., & Rodgers, W. L. (1976). The quality of American life: Perceptions, evaluations, and satisfactions. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  9. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Easterlin, R. A. (1974). Does economic growth improve the human lot? In P. A. David & M. W. Reder (Eds.), Nations and households in economic growth: Essays in honor of Moses Abramowitz (pp. 89–125). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  11. Easterlin, R. A. (1995) Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all? Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, 27, 35–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Easterlin, R. A. (2001). Income and happiness: Towards a unified theory. The Economic Journal, 111, 465–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ellison, C. G., Gay, D. A., & Glass, T. A. (1989). Does religious commitment contribute to individual life satisfaction? Social Forces, 68, 100–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2002). Happiness and economics. How the economy and institutions affect well-being. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Gurr, T. R. (Ed.). (1970). Why men Rebel. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Gurr, T. R. (Ed.). (1980). Handbook of political conflict. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  17. Headey, B. (2008). The set-point theory of well-being: Negative results and consequent revisions. Social Indicators Research, 85, 389–403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  19. Inglehart, R. (1990). Culture shift in advanced industrial society. Princeton: University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Inglehart, R., & Welzel, C. (2005). Modernization, cultural change, and democracy. The Human development sequence. Cambridge: University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Inoguchi, T. (2008). Human beliefs and values in incredible Asia: South and Central Asia in focus country profiles and thematic analyses based on the AsiaBarometer survey of 2005. Tokyo: Akashi Shoten.Google Scholar
  22. Inoguchi, T., Basánez, M., Tanaka, A., & Dadabaev, T. (2005). Values and life styles in urban Asia. A Cross-cultural Analysis and sourcebook based on the Asia-barometer survey of 2003. (Tokyo: Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo).Google Scholar
  23. Inoguchi, T., Tanaka, A., Sonoda, S., & Dadabaev, T. (2006). Human beliefs and values in striding Asia: East Asia in focus-country profiles, thematic analyses, and sourcebook based on the AsiaBarometer Survey of 2004. (Tokyo: Institute of Oriental Culture, University of Tokyo).Google Scholar
  24. Jagodzinski, W. (2000). Religiöse Stagnation in den Neuen Bundesländern: Fehlt das Angebot oder fehlt die Nachfrage? In D. Pollack & G. Pickel (Eds.), Religiöser und kirchlicher Wandel in Ostdeutschland 1989–1999 (pp. 48–69). Opladen: Leske+Budrich.Google Scholar
  25. Jagodzinski, W. (2005). Structure and measurement of life satisfaction in Asian countries: An exploratory analysis. Japanese Journal of Political Science, 6(3), 287–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jagodzinski, W., & Greeley, A. (n. d.). The demand for religion: hardcore Atheism and ‚supply-side-theory’. Online publication:
  27. Kahneman, D., Diener, E., & Schwarz, N. (Eds.). (1999). Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  28. MacLeod, A. K., & Conway, C. (2005). Well-being and the anticipation of future positive experiences: The role of income, social networks, and planning ability. Cognition and Emotion, 19(3), 357–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Maltby, J., Lewis, C. A., & Day, L. (1999). Religious orientation and psychological well-being: The role of the frequency of personal prayer. British Journal of Health Psychology, 4, 363–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Michalos, A. C. (1980). Satisfaction and happiness. Social Indicators Research, 8, 385–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Michalos, A. C. (1985). Multiple discrepancies theory (MDT). Social Indicators Research, 16, 347–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Pollner, M. (1989). Divine relations, social relations, and well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 30, 92–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Raaij, F. v. (2005). Money does provide happiness, but not to the extent that people think, or perhaps hope. In L. Halman, R. Luijkx, & M. v. Zundert (Eds.), Atlas of European values. Leiden, (p. 119). Tilburg: Brill.Google Scholar
  34. Radcliff, B. (2001). Politics, markets, and life satisfaction: The political economy of human happiness. American Political Science Review, 95(4), 939–952.Google Scholar
  35. Shin, D. C. & Inoguchi, T. (2009). Avowed Happiness in Confucian Asia: Ascertaining its Distribution, Patterns, and Sources. Social Indicators Research, 92, 405–427.Google Scholar
  36. Stark, R., & Bainbridge, W. S. (1985). The future of religion. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  37. Stutzer, A., & Frey, B. S. (2006). Does marriage make people happy, Or Do happy people get married? The Journal of Socio-Economics, 35(2), 326–347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Uchida, Y., Norasakkunkit, V., & Kitayama, S. (2004). Cultural constructions of happiness: Theory and empirical evidence. Journal of Happiness Studies, 5, 223–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Veenhoven, R. (1991). Is happiness relative? Social Indicators Research, 24, 1–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Veenhoven, R. (1995). Satisfaction and social position: Within Nation differences, compared across nations. In W. E. Saris, R. Veenhoven, A. C. Scherpenzeel, & B. Bunting (Eds.), A comparative study of satisfaction with life in Europe (pp. 254–262). Budapest: Eötvös University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Veenhoven, R. (2009). How do we assess how happy we are? Tenets, implications and tenability of three theories. In A. Dutt & B. Radcliff (Eds.), Happiness, economics, and politics: Towards a multi-disciplinary approach (pp. 45–69). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Management, Economics and Social SciencesUniversity of CologneCologneGermany

Personalised recommendations