Social Indicators Research

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 329–352 | Cite as

Making the Best of a Bad Situation: Satisfaction in the Slums of Calcutta

  • Robert Biswas-Diener
  • Ed Diener


Eighty three people in the slums of Calcutta,India were interviewed, and responded toseveral measures of subjective well-being. Therespondents came from one of three groups:Those living in slum housing, sex workers(prostitutes) residing in brothels, andhomeless individuals living on the streets.They responded to questions about lifesatisfaction and satisfaction with various lifedomains, as well as to a memory recall measureof good and bad events in their lives. Whilethe mean rating of general life satisfactionwas slightly negative, the mean ratings ofsatisfaction with specific domains werepositive. The conclusion is that the slumdwellers of Calcutta generally experience alower sense of life satisfaction than moreaffluent comparison groups, but are moresatisfied than one might expect. This could bedue, in part, to the strong emphasis on socialrelationships and the satisfaction derived fromthem.

adjustment income India life satisfaction positive psychology poverty quality of life subjective well-being 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Balatsky, G. and E. Diener: 1993, ‘Subjective well-being among Russian students’ Social Indicators Research 28, pp. 225-243.Google Scholar
  2. Banerjee, M.M.: 1997, ‘Strengths in a Slum: A paradox?’ Journal of Applied Social Sciences 22, pp. 45-58.Google Scholar
  3. Christopher, J.C.: 1999, ‘Situating psychological well-being: Exploring the cultural roots of its theory and research’ Journal of Counseling and Development 77, pp. 141-152.Google Scholar
  4. Diener, E. and R. Biswas-Diener: 2000, Income and subjective well-being: Will money make us happy? Manuscript submitted submitted for publication (University of Illinois).Google Scholar
  5. Diener, E. and C. Diener: 1996, ‘Most people are happy’ Psychological Science 7, pp. 181-185.Google Scholar
  6. Diener, E. and C. Diener: 1995, ‘The Wealth of nations revisited: Income and quality of life’ Social Indicators Research 36, pp. 275-286.Google Scholar
  7. Diener, E., M. Diener and C. Diener: 1995, ‘Factors predicting the subjective well-being of nations’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69, pp. 851-864.Google Scholar
  8. Diener, E., R.A. Emmons, R.J. Larsen and S. Griffin: 1985, ‘The SatisfactionWith Life Scale’ Journal of Personality Assessment 49, pp. 71-75.Google Scholar
  9. Diener, E. and R.E. Lucas: 2000, ‘Explaining differences in societal levels of happiness: Relative standards, need fulfillment, culture, and evaluation theory’ Journal of Happiness Studies: An Interdisciplinary Periodical on Subjective Well-Being 1, pp. 41-78Google Scholar
  10. Diener, E., C.K. Napa-Scollon, S. Oishi, V. Dzokoto and E.M. Suh: 2000, ‘Positivity and the construction of life satisfaction judgments: Global happiness is not the sum of its parts’ Journal of Happiness Studies.Google Scholar
  11. Diener, E. and S. Oishi: 2000, ‘Money and happiness: Income and subjective wellbeing across nations’ in E. Diener and E.M. Suh (eds.), Subjective well-being across cultures (MIT Press, Cambridge,MA).Google Scholar
  12. Diener, E., E. Sandvik, L. Seidlitz and M. Diener: 1993, ‘The relationship between income and subjective well-being: Relative or absolute?’ Social Indicators Research 28, pp. 195-223.Google Scholar
  13. Diener, E., E.M. Suh, R.E. Lucas and H.E. Smith: 1999, ‘Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress’ Psychological Bulletin 125, pp. 276-302.Google Scholar
  14. Edgerton, R.B.: 1992, Sick societies: Challenging the myth of primitive harmony (The Free press, New York).Google Scholar
  15. Jana, S.: 1999, Namaskar (Canvas Advertising Agency, Calcutta).Google Scholar
  16. Lane, R.E.: 1991, The market experience (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK).Google Scholar
  17. LaPierre, D.: 1985, The city of joy (Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York).Google Scholar
  18. Loewenstein, G. and S. Frederick: 1999, ‘Hedonic adaptation: From the bright side to the dark side’ in D. Kahneman, E. Diener and N. Schwarz (eds.), Understanding quality of life: Scientific perspectives on enjoyment and suffering (Russell-Sage, New York).Google Scholar
  19. Maslow, A.H.: 1954, Motivation and personality (Harper & Row, New York).Google Scholar
  20. Menon, U. and R.A. Schweder: 1998, ‘The return of the ‘White man's burden’ The moral discourse of anthropology and the domestic life of Hindu women’ in R.A. Schweder (ed.), Welcome to middle age! (and other cultural fictions) (The University of Chicago Press, Chicago), pp. 139-187.Google Scholar
  21. Michalos, A.C.: 1991, Global report on student well-being (Springer-Verlag, New York).Google Scholar
  22. OFFER: 1998-1999, A reading between the lines (Teamwork, Calcutta, India).Google Scholar
  23. Oswald, A.J.: 1997, ‘Happiness and economic performance’ The Economic Journal 107, pp. 1815-1831.Google Scholar
  24. Pavot, W. and Diener: 1993, ‘Review of the Satisfaction with Life Scale’ Personality Assessment 5, pp. 164-172.Google Scholar
  25. Salovey, P., A.J. Rothman, J.B. Detweiler and W.T. Steward: 2000, ‘Emotional states and physical health’ American Psychologist 55, pp. 110-121.Google Scholar
  26. Sandvik, E., E. Diener and L. Seidlitz: 1993, ‘Subjective well-being: The convergence and stability of self-report and non-self-report measures’ Journal of Personality 61, pp. 317-342.Google Scholar
  27. Schkade, D.A. and D. Kahneman: 1997, Would you be happier in California: A focusing illusion in judgments of well-being. Working paper (Princeton University).Google Scholar
  28. Schwarz, N. and F. Strack: 1999, ‘Reports of subjective well-being: Judgemental processes and their methodological implications’ in D. Kahneman, E. Diener and N. Schwarz (eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (Russell Sage Foundation, New York), pp. 61-84.Google Scholar
  29. Silver, R.L.: 1982, Coping with an undesirable life event: A study of early reactions to physical disability (Doctoral dissertation, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois).Google Scholar
  30. Stroebe, W., M. Stroebe, G. Abakoumkin and H. Schut: 1996, ‘The role of loneliness and social support in adjustment to loss: A test of attachment versus stress theory’ Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 70, pp. 1241-1249.Google Scholar
  31. Thomas, F.C.: 1999, Calcutta: The human face of poverty (Penguin Books, Calcutta, India).Google Scholar
  32. Veenhoven, R.: 1993, Happiness in nations: Subjective appreciation of life in 56 nations (Rotterdam: Risbo), pp. 1946-1992.Google Scholar
  33. Veenhoven, R.: 1991, ‘Is happiness relative?’ Social Indicators Research 24, pp. 1-34.Google Scholar
  34. Wilkeson, R.G.: 1996, Unhealthy societies: The afflictions of inequality (Routledge, London).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Biswas-Diener
    • 1
  • Ed Diener
    • 2
  1. 1.Pacific UniversityUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of IllinoisChampaignUSA

Personalised recommendations