Applied Research in Quality of Life

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 365–386 | Cite as

Life Satisfaction Among Rural Low-Income Mothers: The Influence of Health, Human, Personal, and Social Capital

  • Sheila MammenEmail author
  • Jean W. Bauer
  • Daniel Lass


The satisfaction with life among rural low-income mothers was assessed using a sample of 163 mothers who participated in a multi-state, three-year longitudinal study. Dependent variables included those that represented various forms of capital (health, human, personal and social) as well as the mothers’ levels of life satisfaction from prior years. Nearly two-thirds of the rural mothers were satisfied with their life in all three years. Their level of satisfaction appeared to be constant, however, such persistence had a time frame of only one year. The variables that affected their satisfaction with life were symptoms of risk of depression (health capital) and income adequacy (personal capital). These findings provide important insight on a marginalized, yet often overlooked, population.


Satisfaction with life Rural low-income mothers Health capital Human capital Personal capital Social capital Homeostatis 



This research was supported in part by USDA/CSREES/NRICGP Grants—2001-35401-10215, 2002-35401-11591, 2004-35401-14938. Data were collected in conjunction with the cooperative multi state research project NC-223/NC-1011 Rural Low-income families: Tracking Their Well-being and Functioning in the Context of Welfare Reform. Cooperating states are California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Peter St. Marie and Nathaniel Lanier, undergraduate research assistants, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


  1. Ackerman, N., & Paolucci, B. (1983). Objective and subjective income adequacy: their relationship to perceived life quality measures. Social Indicators Research, 12(1), 25–48. doi: 10.1007/BF00428859.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Almedom, A. M. (2005). Social capital and mental health: an interdisciplinary review of primary evidence. Social Science & Medicine, 61(5), 943–964. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.12.025.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Andrews, F. M., & Withey, S. B. (1976). Social indicators of well-being. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  4. Argyle, M. (1987). The psychology of happiness. Sussex: Routledge East.Google Scholar
  5. Bauer, J. W. (2004). Basebook Report. Low-income rural families: Tracking their well-being and functioning in the context of welfare reform. Retrieved December 20, 2007, from University of Minnesota, Rural Families Speak Web site:
  6. Becker, G. S. (1996). Accounting for tastes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Berry, A., Katras, M., Sano, Y., Lee, J., & Bauer, J. (2008). Job volatility of rural, low-income mothers: a mixed methods approach. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 29(1), 5–22. doi: 10.1007/s10834-007-9096-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Biswas-Diener, R., & Diener, E. (2006). The subjective well-being of the homeless, and lessons for happiness. Social Indicators Research, 76(2), 185–205. doi: 10.1007/s11205-005-8671-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bradley, R. H., & Corwyn, R. F. (2002). Socioeconomic status and child development. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 371–399. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bukenya, J. O., Gebremedhin, T. G., & Schaeffer, P. V. (2003). Analysis of rural quality of life and health: a spatial approach. Economic Development Quarterly, 17(3), 280–293. doi: 10.1177/0891242403255325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cameron, A. C., & Trivedi, P. K. (2005). Microeconometrics: Methods and applications. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Clark, A. E., & Oswald, A. J. (1994). Unhappiness and unemployment. Economic Journal, 104(424), 648–659.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Clark, A., Georgellis, Y., & Sanfey, P. (2001). Scarring: the psychological impact of past unemployment. Economica, 68(270), 221–241. doi: 10.1111/1468-0335.00243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1980). Influence of extraversion and neuroticism on subjective well-being: happy and unhappy people. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 38(4), 668–678.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cummins, R. A. (1995). On the trail of the gold standard for subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 35(2), 179–200. doi: 10.1007/BF01079026.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Cummins, R. A., & Nistico, H. (2002). Maintaining life satisfaction: the role of positive cognitive bias. Journal of Happiness Studies, 3(1), 37–69. doi: 10.1023/A:1015678915305.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Dalkey, N. C., Rourke, D. L., Lewis, R., & Snyder, D. (1972). Studies in the quality of life. Lexington: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  18. Diener, E., & Suh, E. (1997). Measuring quality of life: economic, social, and subjective indicators. Social Indicators Research, 40(1), 189–216. doi: 10.1023/A:1006859511756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Diener, E., & Suh, E. M. (2003). Culture and subjective well-being. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  20. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale: a measure of life satisfaction. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49, 71–75. doi: 10.1207/s15327752jpa4901_13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125(2), 276–302. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.125.2.276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Diener, E., Gohm, C. L., Suh, E., & Oishi, S. (2000). Similarity of the relations between marital status and subjective well-being across cultures. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 31(4), 419–436. doi: 10.1177/0022022100031004001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dolan, E. M., Seiling, S., & Glesner, T. (2006). Making it work: Rural low-income women in service jobs. In Proceedings of the Eastern Family Economics and Resource Management Association Conference, Knoxville, TN, 38 (Vol. 46). Knoxville, TN. Retrieved December 20, 2007, from
  24. Dvorak, V., Heidari, S., Kennedy, B., Lawrence, K., Vega, C., & Dulin, N. (2005). The relationship between depression and attitudinal and behavioral components of spirituality in a sample of students at a Christian university. Presented at the Thirty-Fourth Annual Western Psychology Conference for Undergraduate Research, Santa Clara, CA.Google Scholar
  25. Easterlin, R. A. (2001). Income and happiness: towards a unified theory. The Economic Journal, 111(473), 465–484. doi: 10.1111/1468-0297.00646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. El-Osta, H. (2007). The determinants of a quality of life indicator for farm operator households: application of zero-inflated count-data models. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 2(3), 145–163. doi: 10.1007/s11482-007-9035-1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Entwisle, D. R., & Astone, N. M. (1994). Some practical guidelines for measuring youth’s race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Child Development, 65(6), 1521–1540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Felce, D., & Perry, J. (1995). Quality of life: its definition and measurement. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 16(1), 51–74. doi: 10.1016/0891-4222(94)00028-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2000). Happiness, economy and institutions. The Economic Journal, 110(466), 918–938. doi: 10.1111/1468-0297.00570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gerlach, K., & Stephan, G. (1996). A paper on unhappiness and unemployment in Germany. Economics Letters, 52(3), 325–330. doi: 10.1016/S0165-1765(96)00858-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Goldings, H. J. (1954). On the avowal and projection of happiness. Journal of Personality, 23(1), 30–47. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1954.tb02336.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Goleman, D. (1998). Working with emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.Google Scholar
  33. Grossman, M. (1972). On the concept of health capital and the demand for health. The Journal of Political Economy, 80(2), 223–255. Retrieved March 14, 2008 from Scholar
  34. Grundy, E., & Sloggett, A. (2003). Health inequalities in the older population: the role of personal capital, social resources and socio-economic circumstances. Social Science & Medicine, 56(5), 935–947. doi: 10.1016/S0277-9536(02)00093-X.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Haring-Hidore, M., Stock, W., Okun, M., & Witter, R. (1985). Marital status and subjective well-being: a research synthesis. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 47(4), 947–953.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Headey, B., & Wearing, A. (1989). Personality, life events, and subjective well-being: toward a dynamic equilibrium model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(4), 731–739. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.57.4.731.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Headey, B., Holstrom, E., & Wearing, A. (1985). Models of well-being and ill-being. Social Indicators Research, 17(3), 211–234. doi: 10.1007/BF00319311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Headey, B., Veenhoven, R., & Wearing, A. (1991). Top-down versus bottom-up theories of subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 24(1), 81–100. doi: 10.1007/BF00292652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Heilemann, M. S. V., Lee, K. A., & Kury, F. S. (2002). Strengths and vulnerabilities of women of Mexican descent in relation to depressive symptoms. Nursing Research, 51(3), 175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Jackson, A. P. (1993). Black, single, working mothers in poverty: preferences for employment, well-being, and perceptions of preschool-age children. Social Work, 38(1), 26–34.Google Scholar
  41. Jackson, A. P. (1994). Psychological distress among single, employed, black mothers and their perceptions of their young children. Journal of social service research, 19(3–4), 87–101.Google Scholar
  42. Jackson, A. P. (1998). The role of social support in parenting for low-income, single, Black mothers. Social Service Review, 72(3), 365–378. doi: 10.1086/515763.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lewis, C. A., Dorahy, M. J., & Schumaker, J. F. (1999). Depression and life satisfaction among Northern Irish adults. The Journal of Social Psychology, 139(4), 533–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lichter, D. T., & Jensen, L. (2002). Rural America in transition: poverty and welfare in the turn of the twenty-first century. In B. A. Weber, G. J. Duncan & L. A. Whitener (Eds.), Rural dimensions of welfare reform. Kalamazoo: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.Google Scholar
  45. Lucas, R. E., Diener, E., & Suh, E. (1996). Discriminant validity of well-being measures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(3), 616–628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Lucas, R. E., Clark, A. E., Georgellis, Y., & Diener, E. (2003). Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: reactions to changes in marital status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(3), 527–539. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.84.3.527.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mammen, S., Dolan, E. M., & Seiling, S. B. (2009). Poverty spells and rural families: who gets on, who gets off the welfare rolls. In Proceedings of the 4th Consumer Sciences Research Conference “Consumer Voice and Representation” 108–112.Google Scholar
  48. McGranahan, D. A., & Beale, C. L. (2002). Understanding rural population loss. Rural America, 17(4), 2–11. Retrieved December 20, 2007, from Scholar
  49. Mitchell, A., Logothetti, T., & Kantor. (1973). An approach to measuring the quality of life. In The quality of life concept: A potential new tool for decision-makers. Washington, D.C.: The Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Monitoring, Environmental Studies Division.Google Scholar
  50. Narayan, D., & Cassidy, M. F. (2001). A dimensional approach to measuring social capital: development and validation of a social capital invento10ry. Current Sociology, 49(2), 59–102. doi: 10.1177/0011392101049002006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Ostrove, J. M., Feldman, P., & Adler, N. E. (1999). Relations among socioeconomic status indicators and health for African–Americans and Whites. Journal of Health Psychology, 4(4), 451–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Parcel, T. L., & Menaghan, E. G. (1990). Maternal working conditions and children’s verbal facility: studying the intergenerational transmission of inequality from mothers to young children. Social Psychology Quarterly, 53(2), 132–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rodgers, W. L. (1977). Work status and the quality of life. Social Indicators Research, 4(1), 267–287. doi: 10.1007/BF00353134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Rodrigo, M. J., Janssens, J. M., & Ceballos, E. (2001). Reasoning and action complexity: sources and consequences on maternal child-rearing behaviour. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 25(1), 50–59. doi: 10.1080/01650250042000069.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Saunders, S.A., & Roy, C. (2000). The relationship between depression, satisfaction with life, and social interest. South Pacific Journal of Psychology, 11(1), 9–15.Google Scholar
  56. Schyns, P. (2002). Wealth of nations, individual income and life satisfaction in 42 countries: a multilevel approach. Social Indicators Research, 60(1), 5–40. doi: 10.1023/A:1021244511064.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Shin, D. C., & Johnson, D. M. (1978). Avowed happiness as an overall assessment of the quality of life. Social Indicators Research, 5(1), 475–492. doi: 10.1007/BF00352944.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Simpson, P. J., Schumaker, J. F., Dorahy, M. J., & Shrestha, S. N. (1996). Depression and life satisfaction in Nepal and Australia. Journal of Social Psychology, 136(6), 783–790.Google Scholar
  59. Spellerberg, A., Huschka, D., & Habich, R. (2007). Quality of life in rural areas: processes of divergence and convergence. Social Indicators Research, 83(2), 283–307. doi: 10.1007/s11205-006-9057-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stutzer, A. (2004). The role of income aspirations in individual happiness. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 54(1), 89–109. doi: 10.1016/j.jebo.2003.04.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Stutzer, A., & Frey, B. S. (2003). Reported subjective well-being: A challenge for economic theory and economic policy. Working Paper no. 2003–2007, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA). Retrieved December 22, 2008, from–07.pdf.
  62. Tomer, J. F. (2003). Personal capital and emotional intelligence: an increasingly important intangible source of economic growth. Eastern Economic Journal, 29(3), 453.Google Scholar
  63. van Praag, B. M. S., Frijters, P., & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A. (2003). The anatomy of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 51(1), 29–49. doi: 10.1016/S0167-2681(02)00140-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wadsworth, M., Montgomery, S., & Bartley, M. (1999). The persisting effect of unemployment on health and social well-being in men early in working life. Social Science & Medicine, 48(10), 1491–1499. doi: 10.1016/S0277-9536(99)00052-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Weber, B., & Jensen, L. (2004). Poverty and place: a critical review of rural poverty literature. RPRC Working Paper 04–03, Oregon State University, Rural Poverty Research Center (RUPRI). Retrieved from

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V./The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Resource EconomicsUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family Social ScienceUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  3. 3.Department of Resource EconomicsUniversity of Massachusetts AmherstAmherstUSA

Personalised recommendations