Sociale Wetenschappen, 1998, vol 41, pp 58-84
ENGLISH ABSTRACT (OF PAPER IN DUTCH)
The livability of a society is likely to reflect in the happiness of its members. Therefore, several studies have compared happiness in nations. In these studies, average happiness is measured by responses to questions in surveys. The responses appear to differ markedly across nations. Reported happiness is currently highest in North-West European nations, and lowest in the former communist nations and in the third world. These findings meet much reservation. There is doubt about both the cross-cultural comparability of responses to survey questions on happiness, and about the value of happiness as an indicator of societal quality.
This paper takes stock of the qualms and reviews the available evidence. Next to direct checks of specific misgivings it reports some indirect tests. None of the misgivings is supported by the data. It is concluded that happiness is well comparable across nations and that happiness is a good indicator of livability.
Full text in Dutch