Applied Research in Quality of Life

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 909–926 | Cite as

Economic Poverty and Happiness in Rural Ecuador: the Importance of Buen Vivir (Living Well)

  • Fernando García-Quero
  • Jorge Guardiola
Research Paper


This research paper addresses the endemic dimensions of having or not having a good life using a concept of poverty based on self-reported subjective well-being. We build a subjective well-being poverty (SWBP) line and compare it with two income poverty (IP) lines. The endemic dimension comes from rural Ecuador and the indigenous happiness idea of Buen Vivir (Living Well), which has been the focus of growing attention in the scientific and the political arena. Discrepancies between SWBP and IP are deeply explored building models that explain SWBP with IP, as well as control variables and Buen Vivir related variables. We show that income poor households are more likely to be poor in terms of their reported subjective well-being. However, households that grow their own food and are in an indigenous community are less likely to report to be subjective well-being poor. The results suggest that low SWBP values in contrast with high IP may be explained by idiosyncratic components of the Buen Vivir philosophy. The components of the Buen Vivir ethos related to SWBP give rise to the idea of building multidimensional concepts of poverty based on what ethnic people consider to be good or bad for their specific way of life. In a general context, our study raises the importance of considering poverty and its dimensions taking into account the endemic factors of specific groups of people and cultures. That is, to take into account what is important for their lives.


Happiness Poverty Buen Vivir Latin America Food sovereignty 



The authors would like to thank the Institute of Population and Local Sustainable Development (PYDLOS by the Spanish acronym) at Universidad de Cuenca, Ecuador, for assistance and access to the database. Financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Economics and Competitiveness (Project ECO2012-32189) and the Government of Andalucía (Project P11-SEJ-7039 and Project P12-SEJ-1436) is also acknowledged. The authors would also like to thank useful comments from Mariano Rojas, Mònica Guillén Royo, Martin Binder. The comments made by four anonymous referees and the editor of the Journal are also appreciated. Usual disclaimer applies. In addition, the first author would like to thank the Latin American Centre (LAC) at the University of Oxford for its support during the review process that took place during his research stay in the centre. A particular thanks to Dr. Diego Sánchez-Ancochea, director of LAC for his hospitality.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. and The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Facultad Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales, Campus de la Cartuja sin númeroUniversidad de GranadaGranadaSpain

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