The Effect of Unemployment on Life Satisfaction: A Cross-National Comparison Between Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States

  • Wen-Hao ChenEmail author
  • Feng Hou


This paper investigates the effect of unemployment on life satisfaction from a comparative perspective. It also tests whether the link between unemployment and life satisfaction is moderated or reinforced by contextual unemployment across regions within a country—either through a negative spillover or a positive social-norm effect, or both. The results suggest that noticeable non-pecuniary costs are associated with unemployment in the four countries studied. Cross-national differences also emerged in the impact of the moderating factors. Regional unemployment is a strong moderating factor of own unemployment in Canada and to a lesser extent in the United States; the effect is ambiguous in the United Kingdom and exacerbating in Germany. The results also support a negative spillover effect of regional unemployment on the employed in the United States and Germany, no spillover effect in the United Kingdom and, surprisingly, a positive overall spillover effect in Canada. Sensitivity testing further revealed that this Canadian anomaly was a phenomenon mainly in Atlantic Canada, not across the whole country.


Unemployment Subjective well-being Employment insecurity Social norm 

JEL Classification

I31 D84 J60 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

My coauthor and I have approved the manuscript for submission.

Conflict of Interest

My coauthor and I declare that we have no conflict of interest.

Publication of Data and Materials

The Canadian CCHS Survey data used in this paper are available for researchers through the Research Data Centres (RDC) Program or The Real Time Remote Access (RTRA) system. Details of how to obtain the data can be found at


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature and The International Society for Quality-of-Life Studies (ISQOLS) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social Analysis and Modeling DivisionStatistics CanadaOttawaCanada

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