Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The dark side of Chinese growth: Explaining decreasing well-being in times of economic boom.

Bartolini, Stefano and Sarracino, Francesco (2014): The dark side of Chinese growth: Explaining decreasing well-being in times of economic boom.

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Abstract

The formidable economic growth of China in the past few decades led to outstanding improvements in virtually all objective indicators of standards of life. However, these objective records are in striking contrast with subjective ones. Between 1990 and 2007, Chinese average subjective well-being substantially declined. Using data from the World Values Survey, this paper identifies the predictors of the trend of life satisfaction in China between 1990 and 2007. Our findings suggest that subjective data capture something that objective data miss and that can explain the decrease in well-being: the increase in the importance of social comparisons and the decline of social capital. Moreover, economic growth resulted in higher well-being inequality: those in the lowest three income deciles and the middle-class experienced a significant reduction in well-being, whereas the latter increased among richer people. Differences in the erosion of social capital and in the impact of social comparisons seem to be the key to well-being differences among classes.

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