Lucía Macchia and Anke C. Plagnol. "The subjective well-being political paradox: Evidence from Latin America".

chapter in: Mariano Rojas (ed.). The Economics of Happiness: How the Easterlin Paradox Transformed our Understanding

of Wellbeing and Progress. Springer (2019). (website)(flyer)(open access)


The subjective well-being political paradox describes the observation that individuals are on average more satisfied with their lives in welfare states than under right-leaning (conservative) governments, which are less likely to promote welfare policies; however, at the individual level, people who identify as leaning politically more to the right show higher levels of life satisfaction than those who describe themselves as leaning to the left. This subjective well-being political paradox has previously been observed in Europe. The present study investigates whether this paradox can also be found across 18 Latin American countries by using data from 9 waves of the Latinobarómetro survey. In addition to life satisfaction, we further consider respondents’ self-rated ability to meet their financial needs in a satisfactory manner, which can be seen as a proxy for satisfaction with income. Latin America is an interesting region to study this question because of its political history and the emergence of left-leaning governments during the last fifteen years. We find that people report higher life satisfaction and a better ability to meet their financial needs under left-leaning governments compared to centre and right-leaning governments. In contrast, conservative individuals report higher financial and overall well-being than liberal individuals, which confirms the subjective well-being political paradox that was also found in Europe. Our analysis includes controls for macroeconomic indicators, such as inflation and unemployment rates and GDP per capita as well as socio-demographic factors.