Social Indicators Research

, Volume 107, Issue 1, pp 127–148 | Cite as

Government Partisanship and Human Well-Being

  • Tetsuya MatsubayashiEmail author
  • Michiko Ueda


This paper shows that the partisan composition of government is strongly related to the well-being of citizens, measured by the reported level of life satisfaction and suicide rates in industrial countries. Our analysis, using survey data of 14 nations between 1980 and 2002, shows that the presence of left-leaning parties in government is associated with an increase the level of individual life satisfaction. The relationship holds true even after controlling for the effects of macroeconomic variables such as gross domestic product, unemployment rates and government welfare policies. Our panel data analysis of 21 nations between 1980 and 2004 also shows that suicide rates decrease when a country experiences a shift to more left-leaning government. The increased presence of right-wing parties in government has a negligible effect on suicide rates.


Government partisanship Happiness Life satisfaction Subjective well-being Welfare policy Suicide 


  1. Alesina, A., Roubini, N., & Cohen, G. D. (1997). Political cycles and the Macroeconomy. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  2. Alesina, A., Di Tella, R., & MacCulloch, R. (2004). Inequality and happiness: Are europeans and americans different? Journal of Public Economics, 88(9–10), 2009–2042.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Allan, J. P., & Scruggs, L. (2004). Political partisanship and welfare state reform in advanced industrial societies. American Journal of Political Science, 48(3), 496–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bertrand, M., & Mullainathan, S. (2001) Do people mean what they say? implications for subjective survey data. American Economic Review, 91(2), 67–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bradley, D., Huber, E., Moller, S., Nielsen, F., & Stephens, J. D. (2003). Distribution and redistribution in postindustrial democracies. World Politics, 55(1), 193–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Castles, F., & Mair, P. (1984). Left-right political scales: Some ‘expert’ judgements. European Journal of Political Research, 12, 73–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chung, H., & Muntaner, C. (2006). Political and welfare state determinants of infant and child health indicators: an analysis of wealthy countries. Social Science & Medicine, 63(3), 829–842.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Conley, D., & Springer, K. W. (2001). Welfare state and infant mortality. The American Journal of Sociology, 107(3), 768–807.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Di Tella, R., MacCulloch, R., & Oswald, A. J. (2001). Preferences over inflation and unemployment: Evidence from surveys of happiness. American Economic Review, 91(1), 335–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Di Tella, R., & MacCulloch, R. (2002). The determination of unemployment benefits. Journal of Labor Economics 20(2), 404–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Di Tella, R., & MacCulloch, R. (2005). Partisan social happiness. Review of Economic Studies, 72(2), 367—393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Di Tella, R., MacCulloch, R. J., & Oswald, A. J. (2003). The macroeconomics of happiness. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 85(4), 809–827.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Flavin, P., & Radcliff, B. (2009). Public policies and suicide rates in the american states. Social Indicators Research, 2(1), 195–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Frey, B. S., & Stutzer, A. (2002). What can economists learn from happiness research? Journal of Economic Literature, 40(2), 402–435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hicks, A. M., & Swank, D. H. (1992). Politics, institutions, and welfare spending in industrialized democracies, 1960–1982. American Political Science Review, 86(3), 658–674.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Huber, E., Stephens, J. D. (2001). Development and crisis of the welfare state: Parties and policies in global markets. Chicago: University of Chicago PressGoogle Scholar
  17. Huber, E., Ragin, C., & Stephens, J. D. (1993). Social democracy, christian democracy, constitutional structure, and the welfare state. The American Journal of Sociology, 99(3), 711–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kahneman, D., & Krueger, A. B. (2006). Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20(1), 3–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Krueger, A. B., & Schkade, D. A. (2008), The reliability of subjective well-being measures. Journal of Public Economics, 92(8–9), 1833–1845.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Loewenstein, G., & Ubel, P. A. (2008). Hedonic adaptation and the role of decision and experience utility in public policy. Journal of Public Economics, 92(8–9), 1795–1810.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Minoiu, C., & Andres, A. R. (2008). The effect of public spending on suicide: Evidence from US state data. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 37(1), 237–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Oswald, A. J. (1997). Happiness and economic performance. Economic Journal, 107(445), 1815–1831.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pacek, A., & Radcliff, B. (2008). Assessing the welfare state: The politics of happiness. Perspectives on Politics, 6(02), 267–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Radcliff, B. (2001). Politics, markets, and life satisfaction: The political economy of human happiness. American Political Science Review, 95(4), 939–952.Google Scholar
  25. Solt, F. (2009). Standardizing the world income inequality database. Social Science Quarterly, 90(2), 231–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Swank, D. (2002). Global capital, political institutions, and policy change in developed welfare states. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of North TexasDentonUSA
  2. 2.Waseda UniversityTokyoJapan

Personalised recommendations