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The Effects of Subjective and Objective Indicators of Inequality on Life Satisfaction in a Comparative Perspective Using a Multi-Level Analysis

Authors: Atefeh Bagherianziarat, Dana Hamplova


The inverse social gradient in life satisfaction (LS) is a well-established research finding. Although objective aspects of inequality or individuals’ socioeconomic status are among the approved predictors of life satisfaction; however, less is known about the effect of subjective inequality and the interplay of these two aspects of inequality on life satisfaction. It is suggested that individuals’ perception of their socioeconomic status in society can moderate the link between their absolute socioeconomic status and life satisfaction. Nevertheless, this moderating link has not been affirmed to work likewise in societies with different welfare regimes associating with different levels of social inequality. In this study, we compared the moderative influence of subjective inequality on the link between objective inequality and LS. In particular, we focus on differences across welfare state regimes based on Esping-Andersen's theory. Also, we explored the moderative role of believing in the value of equality on the link between objective and subjective inequality on LS, in the given societies. Since our studied variables were measured at both individual and country levels, we applied a multilevel analysis to the European Social Survey data (round 9). The results showed that people in different regimes reported statistically meaningful different levels of LS that is explained to different extends by their household income and their perception of their income inequality. The findings of the study supported the previous findings of the moderator influence of perceived inequality on the link between objective inequality and LS. However, this link is different in various welfare state regimes. The results of the multilevel modeling showed that country-level subjective equality is a positive predictor for individuals’ LS, while the Gini coefficient that was considered as the indicator of absolute inequality has a smaller effect on LS. Also, country-level subjective equality moderates the confirmed link between individuals’ income and their LS. It can be concluded that both individual and country-level subjective inequality slightly moderate the effect of individuals’ income on their LS.

Keywords: individual values, life satisfaction, multi-level analysis, objective inequality, subjective inequality, welfare regimes status

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