The puzzle of falling happiness despite rising income in rural China: ten hypotheses

Jan 2020 | 899

Authors: John Knight Bianjing Ma, Ramani Gunatilaka


With economic development can come social, attitudinal and cultural change, for good or ill or both We pose an unexplored question: why has happiness fallen in rural China whereas rural income has risen rapidly? Two rich data sets are analysed, the rural surveys of the China Household Income Project (CHIP) relating to 2002 and 2013. Our main methods are happiness regressions and decomposition methodology. Several approaches are adopted and no fewer than ten hypotheses are tested. One approach is to examine the variables that are found to be important in happiness functions and to consider their contributions to the fall in the mean happiness score of rural people. Another approach is to analyse the effect on rural happiness of the vast rural-urban migration that took place over this period. This is followed up by introducing tests of the role that changing attitudes might have played.


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