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Social Values and Subjective Socioeconomic Status Matter for Happiness in Korea

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Abstract

Politics around the world has become polarized over values and perceptions of equality and fairness. How are values and subjective socioeconomic status related to happiness? This paper uses national survey data of 15,148 Korean adults to see how an individual’s emphasis on social values, such as freedom, rule of order, social responsibility for individual wellbeing, and equality are related to happiness. We also explore whether and how subjective socioeconomic status affects this relationship. Lastly, the paper will explore how an individual’s evaluations of various aspects of the local community (human capital, economy, social, environment, infrastructure, local services) shape happiness. Path analysis results show that an individual’s emphasis on freedom, order, and social responsibility for individual wellbeing have a positive relationship with happiness, but not equality. Having a low subjective socioeconomic status dampens the positive effect of freedom and order on happiness, but does not matter for the effects of social responsibility and equality on happiness. In terms of community evaluations, economic factors had the largest positive effect on happiness. Overall, low subjective socioeconomic status, freedom, and order were the strongest predictors of happiness. Social values and subjective socioeconomic status matter for happiness.

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Data Availability

Data is available upon reasonable request from the authors.

Notes

  1. Korea’s 1997–1998 financial crisis led to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout. Expert assessments show an overall disastrous effect on the Korean economy (Crotty & Lee, 2005) and wellbeing, such as increases in suicides (Chang et al., 2009).

  2. This scandal involved former Korean president Park Geun Hye and a close adviser Choi Soon Sil. The allegations involved corruption and collusion, such as Choi using her relationship with the president to pressure big corporations (e.g. Samsung) for donations to non-profit organizations that she controlled and to gain admission for her daughter to a prestigious university. Public protests lasted over 20 weeks with approximately more than 15 million participants, eventually leading to the impeachment of Former President Park (Yonhap News, 2017a).

  3. One criticism of the terminology “Don’t Ask” crimes is that it ignores the fact that most victims of such crimes are women and that perpetrators (mostly men) have frequently mentioned hatred towards women as a motive, indicating they are better classified as hate crimes based on misogyny. The terminology excuses misogynistic hate crimes and in turn further exacerbates the stigma of mental illness by framing the perpetrators as “crazy” individuals (Kim, 2017).

  4. Korea has two levels of sub-national governments. In this paper, we refer to the lowest level as local governments or local districts. According to the KOSIS (Ministry of the Interior and Safety “Resident Registration Data”) 2020 data, the largest district has a population of 1.186 million (Suwon City) and the smallest district has a population of 9,077 (Ulleung gun).

  5. The Korean Government revised its housing laws in 2020 with the stated purpose of making housing more affordable. The market responded with rapid increase in housing prices (both rental and sales) and critics note that moreover, housing loans have become unattainable as the government has also placed additional restrictions on housing loans. The average home price in Seoul increased by 22% year over year in 2020 – the largest increase of any major city in Asia (Batarags, 2021).

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Funding

This work was supported by the New Faculty Startup Fund from Seoul National University and the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2016S1A3A2924563).

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Kim, Y., Jeong, Y.A. Social Values and Subjective Socioeconomic Status Matter for Happiness in Korea. Int. Journal of Com. WB (2024). https://doi.org/10.1007/s42413-024-00217-0

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