Happiness Inequality in China

Abstract

Along with China becoming an upper-middle-income country from a lower-middle-income one after 2009, happiness inequality in China has been enlarged. Based on the Chinese General Social Survey database (2003–2015), this paper investigates the determinants of happiness inequality in China and explores what factors contribute to its enlargement after 2009. We find that a rise of income inequality as well as the population share of middle age cohorts can widen China’s happiness inequality, while an increase in income or education level has a reducing impact. Being in employment also has happiness inequality reducing impacts. A decomposition analysis shows that the deterioration of China’s happiness inequality is mainly caused by coefficient effects, i.e., the relationships between happiness inequality and its influencing factors have changed, which reflects the dramatic change in the Chinese economy and society. Among the coefficient effects, regional heterogeneity plays an important role. Policies enhancing economic performance and education as well as reducing income inequality and regional inequality can help to mitigate happiness inequality and improve social harmony in China.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The data is from the Central Intelligence Agency of the U.S., and is available from its website.

  2. 2.

    CGSS is conducted by National Survey Research Center at Renmin University of China, and the website is www.chinagss.org/index.php?r=index/index&hl=en.

  3. 3.

    The data of GDP per capita is available from http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD.

  4. 4.

    The questionnaire and data of the World Value Survey are available from http://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/wvs.jsp.

  5. 5.

    Since WVS and CGSS are different surveys, the indicators of Chinese happiness inequality shown in Tables 1 and 2 are not comparable directly.

  6. 6.

    For example, mean \(\mu = \int {yf\left( y \right)dy} = \int {ydF(y)}\), variance \(V(y) = \int {(y - \mu } )^{2} dF(y)\), quantile \(Q_{\tau } (y) = F^{ - 1} (\tau )\).

  7. 7.

    Can happiness inequality be well measured by Gini index? Having examined nine indices of happiness inequality, Kalmijn and Veenhoven (2005) concluded that Gini index, which is designed for variables indicating “capacity” like income, is not suitable for variables measuring “strength”, like happiness. Variance is relatively more appropriate for measuring happiness inequality of one country. Standard deviation is also frequently used to measure happiness inequality (Ovaska and Takashima 2010; Ott 2011; Clark et al. 2012).

  8. 8.

    For the determinants of the level of happiness, Frey and Stutzer (2002) and Clark et al. (2008) provide a comprehensive literature survey.

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Correspondence to Kai Liu.

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Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 6, 7, 8 and 9.

Table 6 Questionnaire information
Table 7 RIF regression results of happiness inequality in China (2003–2015): using Gini coefficient to measure happiness inequality
Table 8 RIF regression results of happiness inequality in China (2003–2015): control 4 more variables (health, child, equity, party member)
Table 9 Decomposition of happiness inequality difference between Period 2 and Period 1

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Yang, J., Liu, K. & Zhang, Y. Happiness Inequality in China. J Happiness Stud 20, 2747–2771 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-018-0067-z

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Keywords

  • Happiness inequality
  • Income
  • Income inequality
  • Education
  • China

JEL Classification

  • I31
  • I28
  • J17
  • J21
  • J28