R. Calvo, Yuhui Zheng, Santosh Kumar
Aug 15, 2012
High levels of social trust and social support are associated with life satisfaction around the world. However, it is not known whether this association extends to other indicators of social capital and of subjective well-being globally. We examine associations between three measures of social capital and three indicators of subjective well-being in 142 low-, middle- and high-income countries. Furthermore, we explore whether positive and negative feelings mirror each other or if they are separate constructs that behave differently in relation to social capital. Data comes from the Gallup World Poll, an international cross-sectional comparable survey conducted yearly from 2005 to 2009 for those 15 years of age and over. The poll represents 95% of the world's population. Social capital was measured with self-reports of access to support from relatives and friends, of volunteering to an organization in the past month, and of trusting others. Subjective well-being was measured with self-reports of life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect. We first estimate random coefficient (multi-level) models and then use multivariate (individual-level) Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression to model subjective well-being as a function of social support, volunteering and social trust, controlling for age, gender, education, marital status, household income and religiosity. We found that having somebody to count on in case of need and reporting high levels of social trust are associated with better life evaluations and more positive feelings and an absence of negative feelings in most countries around the world. Associations, however, are stronger for high- and middle-income countries. Volunteering is also associated with better life evaluations and a higher frequency of positive emotions. There is not an association, however, between volunteering and experiencing negative feelings, except for low-income countries. Finally, we present evidence that the two affective components of subjective well-being behave differently in relation to different indicators of social capital and social support across countries.