NEW POVERTY IN MODERN EUROPE? The happiness-income relationship 1973-1986

Renée van Schoonhoven & Ruut Veenhoven
Paper presented at the XII World Congress of Sociology, Madrid, July 1990, Working Group 6: Social Indicators Session 8: Poverty and Well-Being

In the early 1980’s the idea of ’new poverty’ emerged. According to this idea the gap between rich and poor widens in affluent western nations, and ever more citizens are believed to drop below the poverty line. It is assumed this development creates a bipartition of society. This is deemed a threat to social peace and harmful for people at the bottom. This paper checks the implied claim that the quality of life has deteriorated in the
lowest income bracket. It does so by considering life satisfaction. It is inspected whether 1) the relatively poor are really less happy- and whether such a difference is due to any objective deprivation - and 2) whether the difference in happiness between rich and poor has actually increased. For that purpose the data of the Eurobarometer surveys over the years 1973-1986 are analyzed. It appears that indeed there is a modest difference in happiness between rich and poor in the EC countries. This difference however, has not increased lately.

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