ESRA 2017 Programme

Tuesday 18th July      Wednesday 19th July      Thursday 20th July      Friday 21th July     

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Tuesday 18th July, 14:00 - 15:30 Room: F2 105

Subjective well-being and Sustainable Development

Chair Dr Francesco Sarracino (STATEC )
Coordinator 1Dr Malgorzata Mikucka (University of Leuvain-la-Neuve)
Coordinator 2Dr Chiara Peroni (STATEC)
Coordinator 3Dr Charles Henri DiMaria (STATEC)
Coordinator 4Dr Cesare Riillo (STATEC)

Session Details

Several empirical studies based on survey data collected on individuals suggest that happier people are more productive and more committed to their work. Happier workers are more pragmatic, less absent, more cooperative and friendly (Bateman and Organ, 1983; Judge et al., 2001) change their job less often and they are more accurate and willing to help others (Spector, 1997). Moreover, happier people earn more money and have better relationships with colleagues and clients, all aspects that contribute to work productivity (George and Brief, 1992; Pavot and Diener, 1993; Wright and Cropanzano, 2000). These results have been confirmed also in experimental settings (Oswald et al., 2009). Further evidence suggests that increased life satisfaction has a positive impact on firms’ economic outcomes (Edmans, 2012).

Moreover, the research on the determinants of subjective well-being provided numerous insights about what matters for people. A multidisciplinary literature provided theoretical grounds and empirical evidence that, among many determinants, a clean natural environment, such as the accessibility to green ad noise-free areas, the availability of clean water and air, as well as a rich social environment are important elements for people’s well-being. This evidence also suggests that pursuing people’s well-being is conducive to new life styles and forms of economic and social organizations that may be conducive to sustainable development.

This session invites contributions that address the relationship between subjective well-being, economic outcomes and sustainability. We are particularly interested in research addressing the following questions:
• What is the role of well-being and/or job satisfaction for economic outcomes such as productivity, entrepreneurship, innovation, employment, inequality, economic growth?
• Is the pursuit of well-being harmful to sustainability? Or does the pursuit of well-being reinforce sustainability?
• Do people care for a sustainable development?
• Do people care for a sustainable well-being?
• How to measure sustainability? Can we do this using subjective well-being measures?
• How to disentangle the complex causal relationships between subjective well-being and sustainability?

We welcome any paper addressing these and similar questions, including works critically challenging this approach.



Paper Details

1. The role of well-being for productivity in Europe: sectoral level analysis using survey and official statistics
Dr Francesco Sarracino (STATEC and HSE)
Dr Chiara Peroni (STATEC)

While subjective well-being is often seen as an outcome, some studies have pointed out that it also has important real life consequences. For instance, some evidence from psychological and behavioural studies suggest that well-being -- or even bad-being – has consequences on work performance or on productivity. This evidence, however, is based primarily on small samples and experimental data (Oswald and Proto, 2015). Only a few studies analyse representative data or matched employer-employee datasets (Bockermann and Ilmakunnas, 2012; Edmans, 2012). We contribute to this literature testing the hypothesis that a higher well-being on the workplace contributes to productivity using European sectoral level data. We merge individual information on the quality of life on the workplace from the European Working Conditions Survey of 2010 with Eurostat data on sectoral level productivity from 2010 to 2013. Overall our dataset includes cross-sectional data from 34 European countries and nearly 11500 industrial sectors. Regression analysis shows that industrial sectors with better working conditions -- as measured by safety and ethics of employment, income, working hours, safety, social dialogue, stress, etc. – have higher productivity growth. We explore the robustness of our result by analysing this relationship by NACE and by regions in Europe. Overall, our study suggests that well-being is not only desirable in itself, but it is also a factor contributing to productivity growth and, therefore, to economic prosperity.


2. “The warden attitude: an investigation of the value of interaction with everyday wildlife”
Dr Mike Brock (University of East Anglia)
Professor Robert Sugden (University of East Anglia)
Professor Grischa Perino (University of Hamburg)

Using a discrete choice experiment, we elicit valuations of engagement with ‘everyday wildlife’ through feeding garden birds. We find bird-feeding is primarily but not exclusively motivated by the direct consumption values of interaction with wildlife and can potentially take on the role as an impure public good. It also displays many of the characteristics which are advocated through the subjective well-being literature regarding the way people can obtain lasting life satisfaction. These attributes include the repetitive and regular interaction with other entities in a dependency role which deliver only a semi-certain interaction with other organisms which instil a sense of responsibility to the individual. The implicit valuations given to different species suggest people prefer birds that have aesthetic appeal and that evoke human feelings of protectiveness. Robins provide the greatest valuation, and these hold true many of the characteristics which one would assume adhere to a person wishing to derive an interconnected affiliation with their local natural environment. These findings suggest that people derive wellbeing by adopting a warden-like role towards ‘their’ wildlife. We test for external validity by conducting a hedonic analysis of sales of bird food. We discuss some policy implications of the existence of warden attitudes. This includes the way that urban planning is considered in the UK given the desire to see urban wildlife populations live in a habitat which can be sustained in order to ensure subjective well-being can be derived from a connection with these species. Another key policy implication assesses the best way for people to engage with their local environmental in order to maximise the well-being benefits which such interactions can supply, and where they may replace traditional methods of derived happiness.


3. No well-being without sustainability- at least for the young generation
Dr Kathrin Gärtner (Statistics Austria)
Mr Manfred Zentner (Danube University Krems)

In the process of constructing a well-being index for young people between 16 and 29 (better life index-youth), an ad hoc(non representative) survey was conducted: Young people in the age bracket of the target group were asked “How important are the following things for you in your life?” followed by a list of items derived from EU-SILC (including the special module on well-being 2013). Two findings from this survey imply that sustainability might in fact be a component of well-being for young people: 1. The item “beeing able to look optimistically into the future” reached one of the highest values as well as items concerning a clean environment in the living area 2. At the end of the survey we asked if there was something we forgot to mention. Here we got a lot of remarks that environment in general, climate etc. on the one hand but also social justice on the other hand are important aspects not mentioned in the questionnaire. Those findings were supported by results of focus groups with young people and youth-practicioners. Therefore, we would conclude that the sustainability of living conditions or even the prospect of better living conditions in the future for all people are important aspects of young peoples’ well-being.


4. When Does Economic Growth Improve Subjective Well-being? Multilevel Analysis of the Roles of Social Trust and Income Inequality in 44 Countries, 1981-2011
Ms Malgorzata Mikucka (Université catholique de Louvain, Belgium)
Mr Francesco Sarracino (Statec, Luxembourg)
Mr Joshua Kjerulf Dubrow (Polish Academy of Sciences)

Governments across the world seek to promote a better life for their citizens, but thus far scholars have provided contradictory advice. While some argue that economic growth leads to higher subjective well-being, and others argue that it does not, we are the first to specify two conditions that make economic growth compatible with subjective well-being over time: increasing social trust and declining income inequality. These conditions hold in developed as well as in developing and transition countries. Our methodological contribution is to combine micro- and macro level data from a large sample of developing, transition, and developed countries and to explicitly distinguish the cross-country differences from the changes over time. We perform a multilevel analysis of harmonized data composed of the World Values Survey, the European Values Study, and macro-level indicators of economic growth and income inequality for 44 countries, observed from 1981 to 2011. Our results show that in the long run economic growth improves subjective well-being when social trust does not decline and income inequality does not increase. These results are compatible with the recommendation that, to pursue durable improvements in people’s subjective well-being, policy-makers should adopt a “promote, protect and reduce” policy agenda: promote economic growth, protect and promote social trust, and reduce income inequality.