International Variation in Child Subjective Well-Being
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Does the subjective well-being of children vary between countries? How does it vary? What explains that variation? In the past the subjective well-being of children has been compared at country level using published data derived from comparable international surveys, most commonly the Health Behaviour of School-aged Children survey. The league tables of child well-being produced in this way are fairly consistent. Thus for example the Netherlands consistently comes top of the rankings of OECD countries. Why is this? How does the Netherlands achieve this? In seeking to explain these national rankings we tend to explore associations with other national league tables. Thus in the UNICEF Report Card 11 (RC11), country ranking on subjective well-being were compared with country rankings on more objective domains of well-being—material, health, education, housing and so on, all at a country level. In this paper we explore international variations in subjective well-being using individual level data from the HBSC 2009–10 survey. We use similar indicators of subjective well-being as were used in RC11. We establish that the components form a reliable index. The ranking of countries is very similar to that obtained at a country level. We also explore the distribution of subjective well-being. We then control for a number of factors associated with variations in subjective well-being at an individual level and, using linear regression with a country fixed effects model, establish whether national differences in subjective well-being are still sustained having taken into account these independent factors. There are some changes in the ranking of countries having taken account of, particularly, behavioural indicators such as bullying. A multilevel model, taking into account country and school level effects, shows that that the effects of child characteristics on subjective well-being vary across countries.
KeywordsSubjective well-being Life satisfaction International variations
The advice of Dr Mona Kanaan, Department of Health Sciences, University of York with the multilevel modelling is gratefully acknowledged.
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