Academic journal article Development and Society

Perceived Neighborhood Conditions and Happiness of Young Japanese and Koreans *

Academic journal article Development and Society

Perceived Neighborhood Conditions and Happiness of Young Japanese and Koreans *

Article excerpt

Introduction

Studies of subjective well-being, largely conducted in Western societies over the past decades, have uncovered that it is significantly associated with various dimensions of life quality. Looking beyond the national level, more recent works have endeavored to identify its determinants across countries (Helliwell and Putnam 2004; Haller and Hadler 2006; Sarracino 2010), often employing multi-level analysis (Inglehart, Foa, Perterson, and Welzel 2008; Deeming and Hayes 2012). Nevertheless, there seems to remain two domains of unresolved issues in current comparative research. First, studies informed by cultural psychology, with most cases based on the United States and Japan, provide ample evidence of distinctive meanings, constituents, and predictors of subjective well-being between West and East, but commonalities in nonWestern societies of collectivistic culture appear to be conclusive. Second, scholarly attention is being increasingly paid to the extent to which determinants of subjective well-being vary across the life cycle, but due less to age group differences in well-being related factors and their impacts in a cross-national comparative manner.

For empirical analysis, we select cases from Japan and Korea among East Asian countries as they are known to be similar in demographic transition and wider institutional environments. According to the latest report of the OECD Better Life Index in 2016, Japan ranks 23rd among the 38 OECD countries, which is higher than Korea at 28th but substantially below the median. Performance in these two countries varies across different domains; one of the indicators that have been consistently lower than the average since 2011 is subjective well-being measured by life satisfaction and balance of affect. When the relationships between household income and wealth (at the top especially in Japan) and jobs and earnings are considered in the index, it seems to suggest a tenuous link between material living conditions shaped by the macro economy and subjective well-being (Haller and Hadler 2006), consistent with the Easter lin's paradox, "Money cannot buy happiness." As shown in Oshio et al. (2011), it is social comparison of family income with the average of the reference group instead of absolute income that matters, being significantly associated with happiness in Japan, Korea and China, all these status-oriented societies that have rapidly achieved economic growth.

Cultural psychologists put forward social psychological underpinnings of cultural differences in the meanings of happiness and its predictors. Their studies have observed that people in societies of individualistic culture tend to consider personal characteristics more valuable in well-being such as selfesteem and personal achievement, whereas interpersonal factors such as relational harmony, emotional support from others, and spiritual enrichment instead of individual, hedonic satisfaction are noticeably crucial in collectivistic societies (Kitayama and Markus 2000; Lu, Gilmour, and Kao 2001; Lu, Gilmour, Kao, Weng, Hu, Chern, Huang, and Shih 2001; Lu and Gilmour 2004; Uchida and Kitayama 2009; Uchida and Ogihar 2012). Individual personality traits such as self-esteem and a sense of personal control, optimism, and extraversion are widely accepted as critical in subjective well-being (Wilson 1967; Myers and Diener 1995), but they are culturally moderated, with immediate social environments and interactional milieu theoretically and empirically more influential in East Asian societies.

Age group has been aptly considered in recent studies on subjective wellbeing whether it is conceptualized as the life cycle or birth cohort (Chen 2003; Easterlin 2006; Karasawa, Curhan, Markus, Kitayama, Love, Radler, and Ryff 2011; Kobayashi, Liang, Sugawara, Fukaya, Shinkai, and Akiyama 2015). Focusing on psychological and socially developed characteristics at a specific life stage, research based on a life cycle standpoint intends to examine age-related factors that contribute to different outcomes in subjective wellbeing such as economic hardship, employment, marriage, children, education, health status, and beliefs and emotions (Mirowsky and Ross 1999). …

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