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


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.


High Education Total Population Dynamic Behavior Similar Measure Social Relationship 
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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

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

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