Life satisfaction before and after the fall of the iron curtain examined

June 10th, 2009 - 3:13 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 10 (ANI): A new study has examined life satisfaction before and after the fall of the iron curtain, determining whether people are happy in countries where communism has given way to democracy.

The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Southern California (USC).

“Although one might suppose these questions are of interest - some might even say fundamental interest, considering that they involve comparing capitalism and socialism - they have received little attention in the voluminous literature on transition economies,” said Richard Easterlin, USC University Professor and professor of economics at USC.

Easterlin examined life satisfaction in thirteen countries in the so-called communist-bloc using self-reported data from a range of sources, particularly the World Values Survey.

“The dissolution of the police states and increase in political and civil rights in many of the transition countries might have been expected to increase life satisfaction,” Easterlin said.

“The sharp decline that initially occurred suggests that adverse economic and social conditions trumped the political in their impact on subjective well-being,” he added.

The study finds that the trend in overall satisfaction with democracy is actually slightly negatively correlated to the trend in reported happiness after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

“There is evidence that, when asked about their sources of well-being, people rarely mention political circumstances,” Easterlin explained. “Rather, they put foremost those concerns that principally occupy their time, most notably making a living, family life and health,” he said.

Satisfaction with work, childcare and health all decreased significantly during the transition from socialism to capitalism, reflecting a marked rise in symptoms of social stress such as divorce rates, suicide rates, domestic violence and increased alcoholism and drug use, Easterlin finds.

However, people were much more satisfied with one particular aspect of their lives after the fall of the Soviet Union: their material circumstances, including standard of living, goods availability and the environment.

“The positive contribution of life satisfaction to improved material living was outweighed by losses in employment security, health and child care, and provision for old age,” Easterlin said.

Disparities in life satisfaction also increased after the fall of the Soviet Union, particularly along the lines of age and education.

Those older than 30, who had already established careers under the socialist system, were far more likely to be dissatisfied with life under capitalism than younger adults.

Older people also faced the deterioration of old-age pension support and rising unemployment rates.

Men and women had about equal declines in life satisfaction, Easterlin found. (ANI)

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