Does National Income Inequality Affect Individuals’ Quality of Life in Europe? Inequality, Happiness, Finances, and Health
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- Zagorski, K., Evans, M.D.R., Kelley, J. et al. Soc Indic Res (2014) 117: 1089. doi:10.1007/s11205-013-0390-z
This paper analyses the effect of income inequality on Europeans’ quality of life, specifically on their overall well-being (happiness, life satisfaction), on their financial quality of life (satisfaction with standard of living, affordability of goods and services, subjective poverty), and on their health (self-rated health, satisfaction with health). The simple bivariate correlations of inequality with overall well-being, financial quality of life, and health are negative. But this is misleading because of the confounding effect of a key omitted variable, national economic development (GDP per capita): Unequal societies are on average much poorer (r = 0.46) and so disadvantaged because of that. We analyse the multi-level European Quality of Life survey conducted in 2003 including national-level data on inequality (Gini coefficient) and economic development (GDP) and individual-level data on overall well-being, financial quality of life, and health. The individual cases are from representative samples of 28 European countries. Our variance-components multi-level models controlling for known individual-level predictors show that national per capita GDP increases subjective well-being, financial quality of life, and health. Net of that, the national level of inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient, has no statistically significant effect, suggesting that income inequality does not reduce well-being, financial quality of life, or health in advanced societies. These result all imply that directing policies and resources towards inequality reduction is unlikely to benefit the general public in advanced societies.