Social Indicators Research

, Volume 123, Issue 3, pp 817–835 | Cite as

Subjective Well-Being of Chinese Landless Peasants in Relatively Developed Regions: Measurement Using PANAS and SWLS

  • Ying LiangEmail author
  • Demi Zhu


The government of China expropriated the lands of peasants for urban development. Though some landless peasants have become the urban residents in the household registration system, they still recognize themselves as traditional peasants in the psychological cultural aspects. And they do not enjoy the same social security as urban citizens. This study explores the subjective well-being (SWB) of Chinese landless peasants using two scales, namely, the positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS) and the satisfaction with life scale (SWLS). A total of 1,236 landless peasants from three relatively developed cities (Nanjing, Yangzhou, and Hangzhou) were included in the sample. Results indicated that 60 % of the respondents got NA scores above the midpoint of scale (30) and 64.64 % of the respondents reported PA scores below the midpoint of scale (30). And 64.56 % of the respondents got SWLS scores below the midpoint of scale (20). SWLS is positively related to PA and negatively related to NA. Therefore, as landless peasants possess more or stronger negative emotions, their SWB decreases. Unfair or unreasonable land compensation and resettlement policy are supposed to lead to negative emotions, while incomplete social security system leads to low life satisfaction among landless peasants.


SWB PANAS SWLS Landless peasants Urbanization Social security Compensation policy 



This paper is supported by the General Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China (71173099 & 71473117), the Youth Program of National Natural Science Foundation (70903002), the Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University (NCET-11-0228) and the key project of the National Social Science Fund entitled Social stability risk assessment of major policies and projects (11AZD108) and Study on Public Participation Mechanism in the Municipal Development Planning, China (13&ZD176). The author would also like to thank Peiyi Lu (School of Communication and Design, Sun Yat-sen University) for her contributions to this study. The authors also want to thank the anonymous reviewers for their precious comments to the manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


  1. Anaby, D., Jarus, T., & Zumbo, B. D. (2010). Psychometric evaluation of the Hebrew language version of the satisfaction with life scale. Social Indicators Research, 96(2), 267–274. doi: 10.1007/s11205-009-9476-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Appleton, S., & Song, L. (2008). Life satisfaction in urban China: Components and determinants. World Development, 36(11), 2325–2340. doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2008.04.009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arrindell, W. A., Heesink, J., & Feij, J. A. (1999). The satisfaction with life scale (SWLS): Appraisal with 1700 healthy young adults in The Netherlands. Personality and Individual Differences, 26(5), 815–826. doi: 10.1016/S0191-8869(98)00180-9.
  4. Chan, N. (2003). Land acquisition compensation in China—Problems & answers. International Real Estate Review, 6(1), 136–152.Google Scholar
  5. Chen, Q., Cai, Y., Liu, F., Zhou, Q., & Zhang, H. (2013). Farmers’ perception to farmland conversion: A questionnaire survey in Xining City, Qinghai province China. Chinese Geographical Science, 23(5), 634–646. doi: 10.1007/s11769-013-0624-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen, Z., & Davey, G. (2008). Happiness and subjective wellbeing in mainland China. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(4), 589–600. doi: 10.1007/s10902-008-9092-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Crawford, J. R., & Henry, J. D. (2004). The positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS): Construct validity, measurement properties and normative data in a large non-clinical sample. British Journal of Clinical Psychology, 43(3), 245–265. doi: 10.1348/0144665031752934.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davey, G., Chen, Z., & Lau, A. (2009). ‘Peace in a Thatched Hut—That is Happiness’: Subjective wellbeing among peasants in rural China. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10(2), 239–252. doi: 10.1007/s10902-007-9078-x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Diener, E. (1994). Assessing subjective well-being: Progress and opportunities. Social Indicators Research, 31(2), 103–157. doi: 10.1007/BF01207052.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Diener, E. (2000). Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55(1), 34. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Diener, E. D., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75. doi: 10.1207/s15327752jpa4901_13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Diener, E., Oishi, S., & Lucas, R. E. (2003). Personality, culture, and subjective well-being: Emotional and cognitive evaluations of life. Annual Review of Psychology, 54(1), 403–425. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.54.101601.145056.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125(2), 276. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.125.2.276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fan, X. (2003). The security function of land and the social security system innovation in rural areas. Collected Essays on Finance and Economics, 4, 8–12.Google Scholar
  15. Feng, B., & Ma, X. (2005). Provincial differences in China’s urbanization. Economic Survey, 1, 62–65.Google Scholar
  16. Gao, W., & Smyth, R. (2011). What keeps China’s migrant workers going? Expectations and happiness among China’s floating population. Journal of the Asia Pacific Economy, 16(2), 163–182. doi: 10.1080/13547860.2011.564749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gouveia, V. V., Milfont, T. L., da Fonseca, P. N., & de Miranda Coelho, J. A. P. (2009). Life satisfaction in Brazil: Testing the psychometric properties of the satisfaction with life scale (SWLS) in five Brazilian samples. Social Indicators Research, 90(2), 267–277. doi: 10.1007/s11205-008-9257-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Guo, X. (2001). Land expropriation and rural conflicts in China. The China Quarterly, 166, 422–439. doi: 10.1017/S0009443901000201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Guo, X. (2012). Research on the society security of the landless peasants of Henan province. In Business, economics, financial sciences, and management (pp. 69–74). Berlin: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-27966-9_10.
  20. He, X. M., Ju, H. L., & Shen, X. M. (2007). Deficiency and perfection of the system of compensation on expropriated land. Economic Research Guide, 7, 18.Google Scholar
  21. He, S., Liu, Y., Webster, C., & Wu, F. (2009). Property rights redistribution, entitlement failure and the impoverishment of landless farmers in China. Urban Studies, 46(9), 1925–1949. doi: 10.1177/0042098009106015.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ho, S. P., & Lin, G. C. (2004). Converting land to nonagricultural use in China’s coastal provinces evidence from Jiangsu. Modern China, 30(1), 81–112. doi: 10.1177/0097700403259131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hui, E. C. M., Bao, H. J., & Zhang, X. L. (2013). The policy and praxis of compensation for land expropriations in China: An appraisal from the perspective of social exclusion. Land Use Policy, 32, 309–316. doi: 10.1016/j.landusepol.2012.11.004.
  24. Jin, J., & Zhang, B. (2010). Study on the compensation model for landless peasants in the urbanization—Based on 16 counties in JiangSu province 320 landless peasants’ compensation model. Urban Studies, 17(5), 74–79.Google Scholar
  25. Keyes, C. L. (2006). Subjective well-being in mental health and human development research worldwide: An introduction. Social indicators research, 77(1), 1–10.Google Scholar
  26. Knight, J., & Gunatilaka, R. (2008). Aspirations, adaptation and subjective well-being of rural-urban migrants in China. In D. A. Clark (Ed.), Rethinking International Development series (vol. 4, pp. 94–110). Paddyfield: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  27. Knight, J., & Gunatilaka, R. (2010). Great expectations? The subjective well-being of rural–urban migrants in China. World Development, 38(1), 113–124. doi: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2009.03.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Knight, J., Song, L., & Gunatilaka, R. (2009). Subjective well-being and its determinants in rural China. China Economic Review, 20(4), 635–649. doi: 10.1016/j.chieco.2008.09.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Li, J., & Raine, J. W. (2014). The time trend of life satisfaction in China. Social Indicators Research, 116, 409–427. doi: 10.1007/s11205-013-0300-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Liang, Y. (2011). Civic idea of rule by law in the perspective of special trust: Research perspectives based on two continuous investigations. Academia Bimestrie, 3, 97–105.Google Scholar
  31. Liang, Y. (2014). Correlations between health-related quality of life and interpersonal trust: Comparisons between two generations of Chinese rural-to-urban migrants. Social Indicators Research, 1–24. doi: 10.1007/s11205-014-0755-y.
  32. Liang, Y. & Cao, R. (2014). Employment assistance policies of Chinese government play positive roles! The impact of post-earthquake employment assistance policies on the health-related quality of life of Chinese earthquake populations. Social Indicators Research, 1–23. doi: 10.1007/s11205-014-0620-z.
  33. Liang, Y., & Li, S. (2014). Landless female peasants living in urban villages in China have poorer quality of life than males: Results from a household study in the Yangtze River Delta region. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 12, 71. doi: 10.1186/1477-7525-12-71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Liang, Y., & Lu, P. (2014). Effect of occupational mobility and health status on life satisfaction of Chinese residents of different occupations: Logistic diagonal mobility models analysis of cross-sectional data on eight Chinese provinces. International Journal for Equity in Health, 13, 15. doi: 10.1186/1475-9276-13-15.
  35. Liang, Y., Lu, W., & Wu, W. (2014). Are social security policies for Chinese landless farmers really effective on health in the process of Chinese rapid urbanization? A study on the effect of social security policies for Chinese landless farmers on their health-related quality of life. International Journal for Equity in Health, 13, 5. doi: 10.1186/1475-9276-13-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Liang, Y., & Wang, X. (2013). Developing a new perspective to study the health of survivors of Sichuan earthquakes in China: A study on the effect of post-earthquake rescue policies on survivors’ health-related quality of life. Health Research Policy and Systems, 11, 41. doi: 10.1186/1478-4505-11-41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Liang, Y., & Wang, P. (2014). Influence of prudential value on the subjective well-being of Chinese urban—rural residents. Social Indicators Research, 118, 1249–1267. doi: 10.1007/s11205-013-0471-z.
  38. Liang, Y., & Wu, W. (2014). Exploratory analysis of health-related quality of life among the empty-nest elderly in rural China: An empirical study in three economically developed cities in eastern China. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 2014(12), 59. doi: 10.1186/1477-7525-12-59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Liu, H. (2006). On the relation between compensation for land expropriation and marginalization of land-lost farmers. Journal of Northeastern University (Social Science), 5, 013.Google Scholar
  40. Liu, Y., He, S., Wu, F., & Webster, C. (2010). Urban villages under China’s rapid urbanization: Unregulated assets and transitional neighbourhoods. Habitat International, 34(2), 135–144. doi: 10.1016/j.habitatint.2009.08.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Liu, W., & Lou, L. (2004). A review on the land expropriation and its management in China. Journal of Zhejiang University (Agriculture & Life Science), 30(1), 63–68.Google Scholar
  42. Ministry of Land and Resources of the People’s Republic of China. (2012). Bulletin of ministry of land and resources of the People’s Republic of China. Retrieved from
  43. Moyo, S., Rutherford, B., & Amanor-Wilks, D. (2000). Land reform & changing social relations for farm workers in Zimbabwe. Review of African Political Economy, 27(84), 181–202. doi: 10.1080/03056240008704454.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. National Bureau of Statistics of the People’s Republic of China, (November 2013): The reform and opening up create brilliant prospect, economic development write new chapter: huge changes of Chinese economic social development since 1978. Retrieved from
  45. Nielsen, I., Smyth, R., & Zhai, Q. (2010). Subjective well-being of China’s off-farm migrants. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11(3), 315–333. doi: 10.1007/s10902-009-9142-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Pavot, W., & Diener, E. (1993). Review of the satisfaction with life scale. Psychological Assessment, 5(2), 164. doi: 10.1037/1040-3590.5.2.164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Peng, J. (2010). Review of researches on landless peasants’ happiness. Journal of Changsha Railway University (Social Science), 11(3), 15–17.Google Scholar
  48. Qiu, L., Zheng, X., & Wang, Y. (2008). Revision of the positive affect and negative affect scale. Chinese Journal of Applied Psychology, 14(3), 249–254.Google Scholar
  49. Shi, G., Wu, X., Yi, Y., Yu, M., Tian, Z., Wang, W., & Wu, H. (2014). The Mental Health and Life Satisfaction of Children of Drug Abusers in Wenzhou, China. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 1–18. doi: 10.1007/s11482-014-9332-4.
  50. Tan, S. (2008). Analysis on causes of frequent land expropriation conflicts in China. China Land Science, 22(6), 44–50.Google Scholar
  51. Tan, R., Qu, F., Heerink, N., & Mettepenningen, E. (2011). Rural to urban land conversion in China—How large is the over-conversion and what are its welfare implications? China Economic Review, 22(4), 474–484. doi: 10.1016/j.chieco.2011.07.013.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tao, R., & Xu, Z. (2007). Urbanization, rural land system and social security for migrants in China. The Journal of Development Studies, 43(7), 1301–1320. doi: 10.1080/00220380701526659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Taylor, S. E., & Brown, J. D. (1988). Illusion and well-being: A social psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological Bulletin, 103(2), 193–210. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.103.2.193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Terraciano, A., McCrae, R. R., & Costa, P. T, Jr. (2003). Factorial and construct validity of the Italian positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS). European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 19(2), 131. doi: 10.1027//1015-5759.19.2.131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Thompson, E. R. (2007). Development and validation of an internationally reliable short-form of the positive and negative affect schedule (PANAS). Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 38(2), 227–242. doi: 10.1177/0022022106297301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wang, M. (2003). Thinking of land expropriation system reformation in Jiangsu province. China Land Science, 17(4), 20–24.Google Scholar
  57. Watson, D., & Clark, L. A. (1988). Development and validation of brief measure of positive and negative affect: The PANAS scale. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 1063–1070.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Wu, L. (2009). Explore the sense of well-being or happiness of land-lost farmers from the perspective of social ecology, Phd thesis of Zhejiang University (pp. 23–53).Google Scholar
  59. Wu, S., & Qin, Q. (2008). Research progress of the identity recognition of land-lost farmers during the process of urbanization. Journal of Anhui Agricultural Sciences, 36(23), 10193–10196.Google Scholar
  60. Xin, W., & Smyth, R. (2010). Economic openness and subjective well-being in China. China and World Economy, 18(2), 22–40. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-124X.2010.01187.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Xiong, C., & Xu, Y. (2009). Reliability and validity of the satisfaction with life scale for Chinese demo. China Journal of Health Psychology, 17(8), 948–949.Google Scholar
  62. Yang, C., & Huang, Z. (2004). Analysis of the basic life security system for land-expropriated farmers in Zhejiang province. Problem of Agricultural Economy, 6, 11–16.Google Scholar
  63. Yang, B., Zhang, Y., & Wang, J. (2010). Review of researches on land-lost peasants issue in the process of China’s urbanization. West Forum, 20(6), 11–18.Google Scholar
  64. Yip, W., Subramanian, S. V., Mitchell, A. D., Lee, D. T., Wang, J., & Kawachi, I. (2007). Does social capital enhance health and well-being? Evidence from rural China. Social Science and Medicine, 64(1), 35–49. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2006.08.027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zhang, H. (2012). Review of Studies on landless peasants in China’s urbanization process. Theory Horizon, 12, 31–34.Google Scholar
  66. Zhang, W., Diao, J., & Schick, C. J. (2004). The Cross-cultural Measurement of positive and negative affect examining the dimensionality of PANAS. Psychological Science (China), 27(1), 77–79.Google Scholar
  67. Zhang, H., & Tong, X. (2006). Self-identity of the passive-urbanized group in the process of obtaining urban adaptability and modernity: An empirical study on 561 land-displaced peasants in Nanjing. Sociological Studies, 2, 84–106.Google Scholar
  68. Zhao, D. (2009). The Interactive Relationship between Farmers, Local Governments and the State during the Course of Land Acquisition. Sociological Studies, 2, 009.Google Scholar
  69. Zhu, K., & Roy, P. (2007). Securing land rights for Chinese farmers: A leap forward for stability and growth. Development Analysis, 3. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Work and Social Policy, School of Social and Behavioral SciencesNanjing UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of Economics and ManagementTongji UniversityShanghaiPeople’s Republic of China

Personalised recommendations