How welfare-state regimes shape subjective well-being across Europe

Andreas Hadjar, Robin Samuel

Welfare-state regimes achieve different outcomes in dealing with social inequalities. For example, the social democratic or Scandinavian welfare-state regime is often considered as the most egalitarian with a high social transfer rate and a comparably low level of income inequality. While most research on welfare-state regimes focuses on objective indicators of quality of life and inequalities, we are interested in how citizens actually evaluate their lives, using subjective well-being (SWB) as an indicator. The paper deals with two research questions: (1) How does the welfare-state regime affect subjective well-being, and (2) does the welfare-state regime influence the effect of status on SWB? Status is an essential first-order goal to produce subjective well-being according to the social production theory of Lindenberg and colleagues (Ormel et al. 1999), but is also linked to many other instrumental goals such as comfort and stimulation. The study carries out a multilevel analysis using pooled European Social Survey data from the years 2002–2012, covering more than 30 European countries. While we first look at how status drives SWB levels in different welfare-state regimes as classified by Esping-Andersen 1990, 1999), our focus is mainly on cross-level interactions between welfare-state regime type and the relationship between status and SWB. Our results provide evidence that social-democratic welfare-state regimes not only provide for living standards that are associated with the highest SWB levels, but also compensate best for status differences in SWB compared to other welfare-state regimes.

Proposition de citation

Samuel, R. & Hadjar, A. (2016). How welfare-state regimes shape subjective well-being across Europe. Social Indicators Research, 129(2), 565–587.

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