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Towards a sociology of happiness: examining social capital and subjective well-being across subgroups of society

Kroll, Christian (2011) Towards a sociology of happiness: examining social capital and subjective well-being across subgroups of society. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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This dissertation contributes to a Sociology of Happiness by examining the social context of subjective well-being. It follows in Emile Durkheim’s footsteps, whose study Le Suicide initially proposed that being connected is beneficial for human beings. The empirical evidence on the relationship between social capital and subjective well-being has indeed grown considerably over the last years. However, the academic literature has a major shortcoming, as studies usually assume the importance of social capital for subjective well-being to be exactly the same between individuals. Interestingly, though, sociological theory gives reasons to expect the association between the two concepts to vary between societal subgroups based on the idea that people have different roles and find themselves in different circumstances. Hence, this thesis responds to a need to examine a new level of complexity and fills a research gap by investigating how social capital is correlated in different ways with life satisfaction by gender, age, parental status, and marital status. OLS and ordered logit regression analyses are conducted in order to systematically examine slope heterogeneity, using data from the European Social Survey for the UK. It turns out that the social context of well-being varies considerably between the subgroups studied here. For example, while among childless women volunteering is positively and very strongly associated with subjective wellbeing, the relationship is slightly negative for mothers. Consequently, this dissertation adds significant value to the happiness literature by looking beyond population means when studying the relationship between certain explanatory variables and a well-being response variable. Moreover, the thesis contributes to a much-needed theory building in research on subjective well-being by resorting to sociological theories. Important implications for current policy issues around well-being arise from the study, and it paves the way for a new wave of research which goes beyond a unitary ‘happiness formula’.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2011 Christian Kroll
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Henz, Ursula

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