Social Indicators Research

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 1–30 | Cite as

Stability and change in levels and structure of subjective well-being: USA 1972 and 1988

  • Frank M. Andrews
Article

Abstract

It has long been recognized that more needs to be known about the dynamic behavior of measures of subjective well-being. As the Social Indicators Movement matures, it becomes possible to explore issues of stability and change in measures of perceived life quality. To contribute to this research need, this paper reports results of administering similar measures of subjective well-being to several representative samples of the adult American population assessed 16 years apart — in 1972 and in 1988. Results show that in the United States, which has experienced reasonably continuous economic prosperity and no major social disruptions during these 16 years, thestructure of the subjective well-being measures (i.e. how they relate to one another and how concern-level measures predict global-level measures) has remained remarkably constant. This is in accord with expectation and enhances confidence in the validity and usefulness of the measures. Changes were found in thelevels of some of the measures: For the total population, feelings about life-as-a-whole, oneself, and one's own health became notably more positive; evaluations of own income and the national government also gained; but assessments of one's own family life, social relationships, community, and job remained fairly stable. Some of these gross changes were general throughout the population, but others occurred only for certain age, racial, or socioeconomic groups. Younger cohorts and people with higher educations and incomes showed more gains in subjective well-being than other groups.

Keywords

High Education Total Population Dynamic Behavior Similar Measure Social Relationship 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Abbey, A. and Andrews, F. M.: 1985, ‘Modeling the psychological determinants of life quality’, Social Indicators Research 16, pp. 1–34.Google Scholar
  2. Andrews, F. M. and Inglehart, R. F.: 1978, ‘The structure of subjective well-being in nine western societies’, Social Indicators Research 6, pp. 73–90.Google Scholar
  3. Andrews, F. M. and Withey, S. B.: 1976, Social Indicators of Well-Being: Americans' Perceptions of Life Quality (Plenum, New York).Google Scholar
  4. Atkinson, T.: 1982, ‘The stability and validity of quality of life measures’, Social Indicators Research 10, pp. 113–132.Google Scholar
  5. Campbell, A.: 1981, The Sense of Well-Being in America (McGraw-Hill, New York).Google Scholar
  6. Chamberlain, K.: 1988, ‘On the structure of subjective well-being’, Social Indicators Research 20, pp. 581–604.Google Scholar
  7. Costa, P. T., Zonderman, A. B., McRae, R. R., Cornoni-Huntley, J., Lock, B. Z. and Barbano, H. E.: 1987, ‘Longitudinal analyses of psychological well-being in a national sample: Stability of mean levels’, Journal of Gerontology 42, pp. 50–55.Google Scholar
  8. Davis, J. A.: 1982, General Social Survey, 1972–1982: Cumulative Codebook (National Opinion Research Center, Chicago).Google Scholar
  9. Davis, J. A.: 1984, ‘New money, an old man/lady, and “two's company”: Subjective welfare in the NORC General Social Surveys, 1972–1982’, Social Indicators Research 15, pp. 319–350.Google Scholar
  10. Davis, J. A.: 1988, General Social Surveys, 1972–1988: Cumulative Codebook (National Opinion Research Center, Chicago).Google Scholar
  11. George, L. K. and Maddox, G. L.: 1977, ‘Subjective adaptation to loss of work role: A longitudinal study’, Journal of Gerontology 32, pp. 456–462.Google Scholar
  12. Groves, R. M. and Kahn, R. L.: 1979, Surveys by Telephone: A National Comparison with Personal Interviews (Academic Press, New York).Google Scholar
  13. Headey, B., Glowacki, T., Holmstrom, E. and Wearing, A.: 1985, ‘Modeling change in perceived quality of life’, Social Indicators Research 17, pp. 267–298.Google Scholar
  14. Headey, B., Holmstrom, E. and Wearing, A.: 1984, ‘The impact of life events and changes in domain satisfactions on well-being’, Social Indicators Research 15, pp. 203–228.Google Scholar
  15. Herzog, A. R. and Rodgers, W. L.: 1981, ‘The structure of subjective well-being in different age groups’, Journal of Gerontology 36, pp. 472–479.Google Scholar
  16. Inglehart, R.: 1985, ‘Aggregate stability and individual-level flux in mass belief systems: The level of analysis paradox’, American Political Science Review 79, pp. 97–116.Google Scholar
  17. Johnston, D.: 1988, ‘Toward a comprehensive ‘quality of life’ index’, Social Indicators Research 20, pp. 473–496.Google Scholar
  18. Kennedy, L. W. and Mehra, N.: 1985, ‘Effects of social change on well-being: Boom and bust in a western Canadian city’, Social Indicators Research 17, pp. 101–114.Google Scholar
  19. Kozma, A. and Stones, M. J.: 1983, ‘Predictors of happiness’, Journal of Gerontology 38, pp. 626–628.Google Scholar
  20. Liang, J. and Bollen, K. A.: 1985, ‘Gender differences in the structure of the Philadelphia Geriatric Center Morale Scale’, Journal of Gerontology 40, pp. 468–477.Google Scholar
  21. McKennell, A., Atkinson, T. and Andrews, F. M.: 1980, ‘Structural constancies in surveys of perceived well-being’. In Szalai, A. and Andrews, F. M. (eds.) The Quality of Life: Comparative Studies (Sage, London).Google Scholar
  22. McNeil, J. K., Stones, M. J. and Kozma, A.: 1986, ‘Longitudinal variation in domain indicators of happiness’, Social Indicators Research 18, pp. 119–124.Google Scholar
  23. Michalos, A. C.: 1985, ‘Multiple discrepancies theory’, Social Indicators Research 16, pp. 347–413.Google Scholar
  24. Palmore, E. and Kivett, V.: 1977, ‘Changes in life satisfaction: A longitudinal study of persons aged 46–70’, Journal of Gerontology 32, pp. 311–316.Google Scholar
  25. Straus, M. A., Linsky, A. S. and Bachman-Prehn, R.: 1989, ‘Change in the stressfulness of life in American states and regions from 1976 to 1982’, Social Indicators Research 21, pp. 229–258.Google Scholar
  26. Thomas, M. E. and Hughes, M.: 1986, ‘The continuing significance of race: A study of race, class, and quality of life in America, 1972–1985’, American Sociological Review 51, pp. 830–841.Google Scholar
  27. Wiegand, E.: 1988, ‘Current work on the social indicators system for the Federal Republic of Germany’, Social Indicators Research 20, pp. 399–416.Google Scholar
  28. United States Census Bureau: 1986, Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1987 (U.S. Department of Commerce, Washington, DC).Google Scholar
  29. zapf, W.: 1979, ‘Applied social reporting: A social indicators system for West German society’, Social Indicators Research 6, pp. 397–419.Google Scholar
  30. Zapf, W.: 1980, ‘The SPES social indicators system in comparative perspective’. In Szalai, A. and Andrews, F. M. (eds.) The Quality of Life: Comparative Studies (Sage, London).Google Scholar
  31. Zapf, W. (ed.): 1987, ‘German social report’, Social Indicators Research 19, pp. 1–171.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank M. Andrews
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations