Towards a happier society? Subjective well-being and the happiness index of Guangdong, China

Li, Jiayuan (2015). Towards a happier society? Subjective well-being and the happiness index of Guangdong, China. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis focuses attention on the initiative taken in China to balance the tremendous economic success of the past half-century with the social outcome of increased happiness for the population. Though counterintuitive, the evidence from various surveys suggests a generally declining trend in happiness in the country at a time when personal wealth has been increasing. The empirical analysis suggests that social comparison, hedonistic adaptation, and changes in other happiness determinants provide three potential explanations for the decline in self-reported happiness in China.
In view of the profound policy implications of such findings, the second part of the thesis centers on the institutionalization of happiness reform, that is, how much the initiative of developing a happiness index in Guangdong has influenced policy and practice in public administration at local levels. Fieldwork undertaken in the province suggested a considerable gap between the rhetoric of commitment to such policy and the reality of public administrative practice. Theoretical insights from neo-institutionalism are explored and offered by way of accounting for the limited impact of this apparently ambitious public policy reform.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
School or Department: Institute of Local Government Studies
Funders: Other, European Commission
Other Funders: China Scholarship Council
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology


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