The Quality of Society and Life Satisfaction in China

Pamela Abbott, Claire Wallace, Ka Lin, Christian Haerpfer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


China has modernised rapidly in recent decades with rising economic growth, which we might assume would lead to a high level of life satisfaction. However, rapid modernisation also has implications for people’s norms and values, which can change—or fail to change—in line with these developments, with implications for life satisfaction. This paper looks at factors that affected life satisfaction in 2012–2013 using the most recent round of the World Values Survey. It uses a holistic framework for analysis derived from the social quality model by focusing upon socio-economic security, social cohesion, social inclusion and social empowerment. Using this societal approach, we found that 33 % of the variance in subjective well-being in China can be explained. Three of the four fields of social quality were important, but feelings of social empowerment make the largest contribution. We conclude that the economic changes that have taken place in China might have helped to move social norms in the direction of individualisation and a sense of personal agency, which raises life satisfaction for those that have made this adjustment. It also implies that the more gradualist transition policies introduced by China (in contrast to some former Soviet countries) allow people to cope better with social change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-670
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Indicators Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • Empowerment
  • Individualisation
  • Life satisfaction
  • Modernisation
  • Social cohesion
  • Social quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


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