This study investigates the effect of relational goods on the levels of life satisfaction reported by people without and with disabilities in Germany. Using longitudinal data from the German Socio-Economic Panel for the period 1984–2011 and creating a “Relational Time Index’ from the information gathered for five leisure activities (i.e., social gatherings, participation in sports, attending cultural events, volunteer work, and attending church), we estimate a fixed-effects model on life satisfaction for people without and with disabilities which allows us to control for unobserved individual effects and determine cause and effect between the key variables. The results show a positive and significant relationship between life satisfaction and the relational time index for all individuals. However, this impact is even stronger for people with disabilities than it is for people without disabilities. Furthermore, attending cultural events and social gatherings are key contributors to the life satisfaction scores reported by people with disabilities. Public policy recommendations are given.
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For more information on the GSOEP data, see, for example, Wagner et al. (2007).
In addition, Becchetti et al. (2012) point out that it is likely that the distance from “at least once a month” and “daily/weekly” corresponds to a more than proportional increase in life satisfaction than it does for the distance between “seldom” and “at least once a month”. If this is the case, our relational indicators flatten high intensity responses and may be conceived as a sort of log transform of the true unobserved variable.
Initially, we have estimated a “Probit Adapted OLS (POLS)” with random-effects and proposed by Van Praag et al. (2003). Although the results were similar to those shown in Table 2, the magnitude of the coefficients on RTI was lower than that obtained from a FE model (0.175 versus 0.212 for the non-disabled sample, and 0.326 versus 0.555 for the disabled sample). Additionally, we have estimated a “Random-effects Ordered Probit” model to test the robustness of our results. For the non-disabled sample, the coefficient on RTI was again positive and statistically significant at the 1 % level (0.254), whereas for the disabled sample this coefficient was positive, significant and higher than that obtained for the non-disabled (0.476). Overall, all these results using different econometric models corroborated our two hypotheses.
We have run a test of equality of means between each RTI category, separately for people without and with disabilities. In all cases, these tests of equality of means showed that the differences in the mean life satisfaction scores between each RTI category were significant at the 5 % level for both samples.
To test if the coefficients on RTI for the non-disabled and disabled samples are statistically different at conventional levels, we have run a joint regression on life satisfaction (non-disabled + disabled) which includes two additional explanatory variables: a) A dummy variable called “DISABLED” = 1 if the person is disabled, and 0 otherwise, and b) an interaction term between RTI and DISABLED. The result showed that the coefficient on the interaction term “RTI x DISABLED” was positive and significant at the 1 % level (0.366). Therefore, the coefficients on RTI for the non-disabled and disabled samples (and shown in Table 2) are statistically different. Furthermore, the coefficients on RTI and DISABLED were also significant at conventional levels (0.225 and −1.298, respectively).
To check the robustness of our econometric results and similar to Becchetti et al. (2012), we have created an additional RTI which weights the intensity of the different social activities as follows: = 0 never, 0.08 = seldom, 1 = at least once a month, and 4 = daily/weekly. This scale takes as point of reference the level of intensity equal to “at least once a month”, assigning the value of 1 to this intensity, 4 to “daily/weekly” (in this case, we only take as reference the week, and we assign 4 because in a month there may be 4 weeks), 1/12 to “seldom” because we interpret it as at least once a year (as in a year there are 12 months), and 0 for never. The results were very similar to those shown in Table 2 and are available upon request. Other versions of the RTI with different weights were also tested but the results were substantially unchanged.
This test is based on the inclusion of three additional variables in our model: (1) the number of waves in which the ith individual participates in the panel; (2) a binary variable taking the value 1 if and only if the ith individual is observed over the entire sample and 0 otherwise; and (3) a binary variable indicating whether the individual was observed in the previous period.
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Pagan, R. Are Relational Goods Important for People with Disabilities?. Applied Research Quality Life 11, 1117–1135 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-015-9423-x
- Relational goods
- Life satisfaction