Academic journal article Journal of International Business Research

Possible Effects of National Population Homogeneity on Happiness

Academic journal article Journal of International Business Research

Possible Effects of National Population Homogeneity on Happiness

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This cross-country study investigates what influence, if any, different measures of homogeneity have on happiness. Using self-perceived life satisfaction as an indicator of happiness, data from 65 nations are analyzed with regression analysis. The results of the study indicate that income inequality and ethnic homogeneity are related to happiness. Other variables determined to be significant indicators of happiness include income levels (GDP per capita), inflation, and life expectancy.

INTRODUCTION

What leads to happiness? This question is one basis for every philosophical and ethical system. Extended to the political and economic realm, we are reminded of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" as inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence. Happiness is the purported goal of most everyone, but finding an efficacious metric has proved elusive for researchers in fields such as psychology, sociology, economics, political science, and evolutionary biology. These past failures have not deterred researchers over the centuries.

Economists refer to "utility" as a happiness measure (See, e.g., Mankiw 2004). Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill developed the concept of "utilitarianism" as aiming to maximize the greatest good for the greatest number (See Ekelund and Hebert 1990). Von Neumann and Morgenstern (1944) formulated game theory based on the premise that individuals and groups reach decisions in an attempt to maximize utility. The issue of systemic maximization of happiness obviously has ramifications in socioeconomic and legal/political realms.

A potentially related (and somewhat more easily measured) issue of interest is cultural homogeneity. How similar (or diverse) are the people in a given geographic area? Many past studies have focused on ethnic and linguistic (or ethnolinguistic), religious, or economic homogeneity (See, e.g., Masters and McMillan 2003). These studies overlap the aforementioned fields. In most cases, the homogeneity dimensions were considered separately. Recent studies have combined them to assess an overall level of homogeneity (See, e.g., Barrett and Couch 2006).

The main issue of interest in the current study is what relationship, if any, exists between cultural homogeneity and happiness for nations of the world. The happiness metric employed is self-perceived life satisfaction and is obtained from studies by Veenhoven (1991, 1996, 2001). A sample of 65 countries is analyzed using regression analysis with a set of control variables to determine whether happiness (life satisfaction) is influenced by income homogeneity, ethnic homogeneity, and religious homogeneity.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The topic of "national happiness" has suddenly become ubiquitous in the sociological and economic literature, due mainly to Ruut Veenhoven. The Dutch sociologist used a survey to obtain happiness indices for 91 countries. (See Veenhoven 1991, 1996, 2001). Following the seminal study, many authors have used the Veenhoven data in other investigations linking happiness to multiple sociological and economic variables. A recent entire issue of the Journal of Socio-Economics (Vol. 35, 2006) was devoted to papers on happiness.

Veenhoven (2000) assessed the relationship between freedom and happiness, and found a significant positive relationship between the two. Such an association is expected, as well as being appreciated for advocates of increased political and economic freedom. Helliwell (2002), Frey and Stutzer (2002 a, b), and Inglehart and Klingemann (2000) also studied freedom-intensive variables and freedom. In each case, the given freedom metric was significantly positively related to national happiness.

Ovaska and Takashima (2006) investigated economic policy and happiness, using a large set of independent variables as controls. Their study yielded significance of health (as measured by life expectancy) and economic freedom as related to happiness. …

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