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Regular version of the site

Article

Happiness and Democracy, 1972-2008

Journal of Siberian Federal University. 2013. Vol. 6. No. 8. P. 1097-1105.

Before the avalanche of democratization that occurred around 1990, happiness was strongly correlated with democracy: at the national level, subjective well-being showed correlations close to.8 with such measures of democracy as the Freedom House political rights and civil liberties scores. This could mean that: (1) living under democratic institutions makes people much happier than living under authoritarian ones; or (2) high levels of subjective well-being are conducive to democracy. It is also possible that the correlation could be spurious or reciprocal. Using data on happiness levels of 42 publics from 1981 to 2007 and measures of democracy levels from 1972 to 2008, this paper attempts to clarify why subjective well-being is linked with democracy. If democracy causes democracy, then transitions to democracy should be followed by dramatic increases in happiness. But if happiness is a relatively stable variable that is conducive to democracy but not necessarily raised by it, democratization not be followed by rising happiness – and by moving large numbers of less happy societies into the ranks of the democracies, a major wave of democratization would weaken the subsequent correlation between democracy and happiness.