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Social Indicators Research

, Volume 117, Issue 1, pp 145–164 | Cite as

They Are Richer But Are They Happier? Subjective Well-Being of Chinese Citizens Across the Reform Era

  • Zhilin TangEmail author
Article

Abstract

This study examined Chinese’s subjective well-being (SWB) in the past two decades. By capitalizing on the single time-series data available on SWB in China during the reform era (spanning for nearly two decades) and adopting a newly-developed cross-classified random effects model that can disentangle the confounding effects of age, period and birth cohorts, this analysis detects significant age and period effect. First, Chinese exhibits a curvilinear and concave relation between age and life satisfaction. Secondly, economic prosperity in the past decades did not translate into greater satisfaction with life among Chinese people. Significant period effect reveals a V-shape pattern of life satisfaction: the declining trend has continued throughout the 1990s and the beginning of the millennium. By 2007 (the most recently available), the life satisfaction of Chinese people has rebounded to some extent, albeit still considerably lower than in 1990. Subsequently, in search of explanations for this overall trend of plummeted subjective well-being among Chinese citizens over time, whether and how the rising inequality asserts its influence on SWB in China’s context are tested and discussed.

Keywords

Subjective well-being Age-period-cohort cross-classified random effect model China 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Community HealthUniversity of California at Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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