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Psychol Bull. 2008 Jul;134(4):536-60. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.134.4.536.

The relation of economic status to subjective well-being in developing countries: a meta-analysis.

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Department of Psychology, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA 94132, USA.


The current research synthesis integrates the findings of 111 independent samples from 54 economically developing countries that examined the relation between economic status and subjective well-being (SWB). The average economic status-SWB effect size was strongest among low-income developing economies (r = .28) and for samples that were least educated (r = .36). The relation was weakest among high-income developing economies (r = .10) and for highly educated samples (r = .13). Controlling for numerous covariates, the partial r effect size remained significant for the least-educated samples (pr = .18). Moderator analyses showed the economic status-SWB relation to be strongest when (a) economic status was defined as wealth (a stock variable), instead of as income (a flow variable), and (b) SWB was measured as life satisfaction (a cognitive assessment), instead of as happiness (an emotional assessment). Findings were replicated with a meta-analysis of the World Values Survey data. Discussion centers on the plausibility of need theory, alternative explanations of results, interpretation of moderators, and directions for future research.

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