South African Perceptions of the Good Life Twenty Years into Democracy

  • Valerie MøllerEmail author
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 60)


South Africa celebrated 20 years of democracy in 2014. In 1994, life satisfaction among all South Africans peaked following the first open non-racial elections. Since that time, only some 45–55 % of the total population, on average, state that they are satisfied. Drawing on Alex Michalos’ classic Multiple Discrepancy Theory (MDT), this chapter explores the needs, expectations, aspirations and perceptions of progress among black South Africans, who were promised a better life under democracy by the new government they voted for in 1994. Findings suggest that expectations raised by the new government in the early years of democracy, coupled with a strong sense of entitlement to state services and welfare in later years, are among the strongest drivers of life satisfaction 20 years into democracy. South Africa’s democracy project is still a work in progress and black South Africans continue to hope for a better life in the future.


Multiple discrepancies theory (MDT) Life satisfaction Personal progress South Africa’s democracy project 



Obviously, I am indebted to Alex Michalos for his interest in and support of South African quality of life studies. Three of the studies reported here were supported by the South African National Research Foundation: the subjective well-being module in the SASAS 2012 survey was supported by grant 77926 for research collaboration on quality of life between South Africa and Algeria; the two focus group discussions on the isiXhosa Personal Wellbeing Index and National Wellbeing Index were supported by NRF incentive funding grant 85343. I am grateful to my South African colleague, Benjamin Roberts, co-ordinator of SASAS at the Human Sciences Research Council, for the tabulations of the SASAS 2012 survey data. Views expressed are mine and should not be attributed to the NRF or any of my research partners and colleagues.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Social and Economic ResearchRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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