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Subjective Well-Being and Social Capital in Belgian Communities Marc Hooghe Bram Vanhoutte Ellen Quintelier Department of Political Science, Catholic University.

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Presentation on theme: "Subjective Well-Being and Social Capital in Belgian Communities Marc Hooghe Bram Vanhoutte Ellen Quintelier Department of Political Science, Catholic University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Subjective Well-Being and Social Capital in Belgian Communities Marc Hooghe Bram Vanhoutte Ellen Quintelier Department of Political Science, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium ISQOLS Conference Instituto delli Ignocenti Firenze,

2 Research Questions -Is subjective well-being determined by individual level characteristics? -Impact of social capital: networks, associations, generalized trust -Impact of context: community level Data: SCIF (Social Cohesion Indicators Flanders) survey, April-July 2009, n=2080 Survey designed to allow multilevel research

3 SCIF-survey Flemish autonomous region, Belgium (pop. 6,000,000) n: 2,080 in 40 municipalities

4 Introduction Subjective well-being is determined by both individual and community characteristics Role of personality traits, socio-economic background variables and network integration Community characteristics: deprivation, income, crime, unemployment, segregation, housing, public services,… Most research focuses on differences between societies. Regional and local differences: studies available in US, Canada & Switzerland

5 Subjective Well-Being Evaluative / cognitive measure: satisfaction with life (  affective measurement, happiness) Subjective well-being as composite indicator of quality of life in various domains Reflects self-realisation on several domains: depends not only on abilities and social position, but also the context Increasingly important as policy goal and indicator

6 Subjective Well-Being Differences between countries well documented Differences within countries: mixed evidence: –depends on indicator for subjective well-being –is ‘happiness’ a cultural trait/link with individualism –culture as a geographically homogeneous attribute of countries and political systems?

7 Determinants of Well-Being Individual level –Age –Family structure/relations –Health –Material conditions –Social capital: networks and trust –Personality traits Community level –Crime / Unemployment

8 Hypotheses H1: Living with a partner, high income and employment have a positive effect on well-being H2: Social capital (networks and trust) has a positive influence on well-being H3: Unemployment and crime in one’s community have a negative impact on well-being

9 Data and methods Social Cohesion Indicators Flanders Survey: 2080 respondents between 18 and 85 years old, interviewed face to face, April-July 2009 Representative sample of population of Flemish autonomous region Designed for multilevel: representative group of 40 municipalities, with maximum variance on social cohesion indicators, within municipalities random sample of inhabitants OLS regression and multi-level regression

10 Operationalization Subjective Well-being: –Factor scale with four items probing satisfaction on different life domains (family, spare time and social life) and life in general (Cronbach’s α.76) Income: Natural Log of family income Generalized Trust: –Factor scale with three items Optimism (Scheier, Carver & Bridges, 1994) –Factor scale with five items

11 Results 1: Individual level regression β Age-.53Curvilinear relation with age Age 2.55 Living with partner.29Stronger effect than just marriage Family Income.08 r2r2.11

12 Results 2: Adding Social Capital (Addition to the variables included in model 1) β Generalized Trust.16Strongest social capital variable Inviting friends.10 Family visits.09 Membership.08 r2r2.16

13 Results 3: Adding Subjective Indicators (Addition to the variables included in model 2) β Satisfaction with income.16Renders income insignificant Optimism.18Does not render other variables insignificant Health.35 r2r2 (inclusion of health tautological?)

14 Results 4: Adding Community Effects (Adding community effects to Model 3  multilevel model) β Crime level.01ns Unemployment level.00ns Population density.00ns Intra-Class Correlation-.002  No intra-class correlation of subjective well-being in Belgian communities

15 Discussion (1) Individual level: –“Living with partner” better indicator than “being married” –“Satisfaction with income” stronger effect than “income” –“Generalized trust” most important element of social capital –Effects remain strong and significant, controlling for personality trait of optimism

16 Discussion (2) Why are there no community level effects? Flemish region too homogeneous? (high income, very low level of income inequality, low levels of crime) Municipalities not a good level of aggregation (average 20,000 inhabitants) Well-being scores defined by general culture, not by local context? Counter-indication: for other indicators, we do find strong community level differences and effects in Flanders Example: suicide rates in Flemish municipalities

17 Comparison: age corrected suicide rates for men,

18 Discussion (3) Toward a threshold model of community influences on subjective well-being? Deprivation, crime and inequality can have an impact on subjective well-being But given sufficiently high levels of income (and low levels of crime and deprivation) no longer an effect of additional variance on subjective well-being? Need to conduct research in more heterogeneous societies


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