168 – Values in the air. The role of social environment on subjective wellbeing


We wonder whether life sense and life satisfaction are affected not only by personal biography but also by the cultural milieu that individuals experience in a given geographical area.

To this purpose we calculate average values and beliefs of ESS (European Social Survey) respondents at regional level and find that the same variables have a significant impact on eudaimonic and cognitive subjective wellbeing (i.e. life sense and life satisfaction) of participants to the Survey on Health Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE survey) in three main directions.

First, the importance of positional competition (race for status) in the geographical area significantly reduces eudaimonic and cognitive wellbeing.

Second, an aggregate index measuring social capital, solidarity and tolerance has positive and significant effects on eudaimonic wellbeing.

Third, matching between individual and social values matters since individuals with higher social capital and other-regarding preferences are significantly happier in areas with higher values of the social capital aggregate index and suffer more from the race for success. Our findings have relevant implications in terms of economics of identity, role of (and policies on) migration and importance of local social capital for subjective wellbeing.

Keywords: subjective wellbeing, positional competition, social capital

JEL numbers: I31 General Welfare, Well-Being.