ChapterPDF Available

Latin American Happiness has Social Foundations, chapter 6 World Happiness Report 2018

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

Latin Americans report high happiness levels. Positive-affect scores are substantially high both in comparison to other countries in the world and to what income levels in the region would predict. Latin Americans’ evaluation of life is also above what income levels would predict. It is clear that there is more to life than income and that there is something to learn from the Latin American case about the drivers of happiness. There are deeper lessons to be learned from the high happiness situation in Latin America. Our results confirm that currently used development indicators neglect important aspects in life which are of relevance for people’s well-being. By appropriately incorporating people’s values, subjective well-being measures become highly relevant in addressing development debates and strategies. These measures recognize human universality in the experience of being well, but allow for heterogeneity in the relationship between this experience and its drivers. Heterogeneity emerges from historical processes that shape culture and influence values. Hence, well-being is better assessed by subjective well-being measures than by indicators of its potential drivers. The happiness situation of Latin Americans can be considered as very favorable, especially when contrasted with commonly used socio-political and economic indicators. These indicators often portray a situation of weak political institutions, high corruption, high violence and crime rates, very unequal distribution of income, and high poverty rates in many Latin American countries. The chapter does not suggest neglecting these problems. In fact, happiness in Latin America could be higher if these problems were properly solved. However, the chapter shows that by focusing primarily on these problems scholars and journalists get a misleading impression of life in Latin America. Furthermore, the exclusive focus on problems could lead scholars and journalists to neglect the positive drivers of happiness in Latin America and could induce policy makers to undertake wrong policies by lacking a more balanced and complete view of human beings and societies. As a matter of fact, even on the basis of traditional development indicators, not everything is problematic in Latin America. For example, per capita incomes are not low and there is reasonable provision of public goods and an acceptable provision of health and education services in most countries. In addition, this chapter argues that high happiness in Latin America is neither an anomaly nor an oddity. It is explained by the abundance of family warmth and other supportive social relationships frequently sidelined in favor of an emphasis on income measures in the development discourse. Happiness research has shown that relationships are important for people’s happiness; and that positive relationships are abundant in Latin America. Hence, happiness in Latin America has social foundations.
Content may be subject to copyright.
114
115
Chapter 6
Happiness in Latin America
Has Social Foundations
Mariano Rojas, Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences
(FLACSO-México) & Universidad Popular Autónoma del
Estado de Puebla
This contribution has benefited from research supported by the Saint Louis
University’s Happiness and Well-Being: Integrating Research across the Disciplines
project. I would also like to express my gratitude to John Helliwell for his helpful
comments and recommendations, to Richard Layard for useful suggestions,
and to Iván Martínez for research assistance.
World Happiness Report 2018
Introduction
Latin Americans report high happiness levels.
Positive-affect scores are substantially high both
in comparison to other countries in the world
and to what income levels in the region would
predict. Latin Americans’ evaluation of life is also
above what income levels would predict. It is
clear that there is more to life than income and
that there is something to learn from the Latin
American case about the drivers of happiness.
There are deeper lessons to be learned from the
high happiness situation in Latin America. Our
results confirm that currently used development
indicators neglect important aspects in life which
are of relevance for people’s well-being. By
appropriately incorporating people’s values,
subjective well-being measures become highly
relevant in addressing development debates and
strategies. These measures recognize human
universality in the experience of being well, but
allow for heterogeneity in the relationship
between this experience and its drivers.
Heterogeneity emerges from historical processes
that shape culture and influence values. Hence,
well-being is better assessed by subjective
well-being measures than by indicators of its
potential drivers.
The happiness situation of Latin Americans can
be considered as very favorable, especially when
contrasted with commonly used socio-political
and economic indicators. These indicators often
portray a situation of weak political institutions,
high corruption, high violence and crime rates,
very unequal distribution of income, and high
poverty rates in many Latin American countries.
The chapter does suggest neglecting these
problems. In fact, happiness in Latin America
could be higher if these problems were properly
solved. However, the chapter shows that by
focusing primarily on these problems scholars
and journalists get a misleading impression of
life in Latin America. Furthermore, the exclusive
focus on problems could lead scholars and
journalists to neglect the positive drivers of
happiness in Latin America and could induce
policy makers to undertake wrong policies by
lacking a more balanced and complete view
of human beings and societies.
As a matter of fact, even on the basis of
traditional development indicators, not
everything is problematic in Latin America.
For example, per capita incomes are not low and
there is reasonable provision of public goods
and an acceptable provision of health and
education services in most countries. Many Latin
American countries are classified by the United
Nations Development Programme as having
‘High Human Development’.1
In addition, this chapter argues that high happiness
in Latin America is neither an anomaly nor an
oddity. It is explained by the abundance of family
warmth and other supportive social relationships
frequently sidelined in favor of an emphasis on
income measures in the development discourse.
Happiness research has shown that relationships
are important for people’s happiness; and that
positive relationships are abundant in Latin
America. Hence, happiness in Latin America has
social foundations.
The chapter starts by arguing that Latin America
is more than a geographic region: it is the home
to a culture which presents particular features
that are relevant in generating high happiness.
The subsequent section provides a description of
the happiness situation in Latin America, showing
that Latin Americans enjoy very high positive
affective states, as well as evaluative states that
are above what income levels would predict for
the region. The chapter then moves on to show
that happiness in Latin America does suffer from
the effects of the many social and economic
problems in the region. The life satisfaction of
people in Latin America is negatively impacted
by corruption, violence and crime, and economic
difficulties. An explanation for the relatively high
happiness levels in Latin America is provided in
the following section, which describes the
abundance and relevance of close and warm
interpersonal relations in the region. The patterns
of interpersonal relations in Latin America differ
significantly from those in other regions of the
world. The specific pattern of interpersonal
relations leads to Latin Americans enjoying high
family satisfaction levels and experiencing many
daily positive emotions. A more relational sense
of purpose in life also contributes in explaining
the favorable evaluation of life. Final considerations
are presented in the last section.
116
117
Latin America: Not Just a
Geographical Region
One could think of Latin America as a collection
of countries that happen to be in the same
geographical region However, Latin America is
much more than this. It is a distinct culture. Of
course, there is considerable intra-regional
heterogeneity as well as substantial similarities
with other regions of the world, but it is possible
to think of a Latin American culture with a clearly
recognized way of life where close interpersonal
relations and the enjoyment of positive affective
states predominate.2 The Latin American culture
emerged from particular historical processes,
and some of its features are relevant in explaining
happiness in the region.3
The Latin American Region
The Latin American category usually includes
those countries in the American continent where
romance languages are predominant. On the basis
of this vague definition the region incorporates
Brazil – where Portuguese is the official language
– and 18 countries where Spanish is an official
language: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia,
Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador,
El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico,
Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay,
and Venezuela. Puerto Rico, another state where
Spanish is spoken, is not usually included due to
its status as unincorporated territory of the
United States; however, it is recognized that
Puerto Ricans have a Latin American character.
On the basis of a romance-language criterion
Haiti – where French is widely spoken – could
also be considered as being part of the region.
However, its history and culture are very different
from those of the Spanish and Portuguese-
speaking countries.
It is important to note that many indigenous
languages are also widely spoken in the region
– such as Quechua, Guaraní, Nahuatl, Maya,
Zapotec, Mapuche, Aymara, and others. These
languages are particularly important in some
countries where the indigenous population is
large, such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala,
Paraguay, Peru, and Mexico.
The region goes from the northern 32° parallel
to the southern 56° parallel (not considering
Antarctic territories). It comprises a population
of about 620 million people living in a geograph-
ical area of about 19.5 million square kilometers.
In terms of population size the largest countries
in the region are, by far, Brazil and Mexico, with
population figures of 209 million and 129 million
people, respectively. Colombia, Argentina, Peru
and Venezuela can be considered mid-size
countries, with populations in between 50 and
25 million people.
Latin America is not a high income region, and
no Latin American country would be classified as
developed on the basis of its per capita income
level. Some social indicators point towards the
existence of many social problems, such as
corruption and lack of transparency, high income
inequality, and high crime and victimization rates.4
As expected, Latin America is a diverse region;
there are significant inter-country differences,
as well as substantial intra-country disparities.
However, there is a general idea of the region
as a single entity, and most people in the region
can identify themselves as Latin Americans.
The Latin American Culture
The Latin American identity is not defined by
language alone or by sharing a geographic space
in the world. The Latin American identity points
towards a culture that has emerged from historical
processes that have been common to all countries
in the region.5 With the emergence of happiness
research and the gathering of happiness
information it has become visible that the Latin
American way of life is associated with high
happiness. The emerging data from Latin America
shows that life evaluation indicators are high in
relation to what income levels in the region
would predict and that positive affect indicators
are outstandingly high with respect to the rest
of the world. In other words, it seems that the set
of social and economic indicators which are
commonly used in development studies do not
provide a complete picture of the well-being of
Latin Americans.
It is the collision of major civilizations which gave
rise to the Latin American nations. Christopher
Columbus’ journeys in the late years of the 15th
century and the beginning of the 16th century
triggered this process. The European civilizations
– mostly Spaniards and Portuguese – collided with
the large pre-Columbian indigenous civilizations
which existed in the region. Three main
World Happiness Report 2018
civilizations existed in the Latin American
region by the end of the 15th century when the
Europeans arrived to the so-called ‘new world’:
the Aztecs, the Incas, and the Mayans.6
Archeological evidence shows that the Aztec
empire had a population of about 5 million
people at the time. The Aztec capital,
Tenochtitlan, had about 200,000 people when
the Spaniards arrived, a population more or less
similar to that of Paris, the largest European
city at the time. In addition to the Aztecs, the
Mayans, and the Incas, many other groups
populated the region, such as the Guarani and
Mapuche in South America. The collision of these
major civilizations was not a peaceful process; it
is a history of battles and impositions, of treason
and ambition, of conquering and colonization, of
being forced to adapt to rapidly changing social
and political circumstances and to understand
unfamiliar points of view.
The large indigenous populations were neither
exterminated nor segregated, and over time
Europeans and indigenous groups mixed,
creating “mestizo” (racially mixed ancestry
between American Indian and European – usually
Spanish or Portuguese).7 Many Indians died as
a consequence of the new illnesses brought
by Europeans, and many others died as a
consequence of unhealthy working conditions.
But it was not in the interest of the conquerors
to exterminate the local populations, and some
religious congregations fought for the
incorporation of the indigenous groups into the
new society.8 It was clear that the Europeans
were the conquerors, but the society emerging
from this process incorporated both the
conquerors and the conquered. A majority of
the Latin American population is considered to
be “mestizo” and there are large indigenous
populations in countries such as Mexico,
Guatemala, El Salvador, Ecuador, Peru, and
Bolivia. For example, in Guatemala, about 50% of
the population speaks an indigenous language,
whereas another 40% are considered mestizo.
It has been more than 500 years since the
beginning of the conquest. Latin American culture
has evolved during the 300 years of colonial
times and the 200 years of independence times.
Many factors intervened in the shaping of the
current Latin American culture, and the blending
of the values and worldview of the indigenous
people with those of Spaniards and Portuguese
is an important one.9 Coexistence with – rather
than dominance of – nature was a central value of
many indigenous groups; this value contributes
to generate a society that is not as interested in
changing the social and natural context as it is in
living within it.10 This leads to a society that has a
slower pace of life and that is not so focused on
transforming and mastering nature and in
generating economic growth as it is in living and
enjoying life within the existing conditions.11 In
addition, the extended-family values of the
conquerors blended with the communitarian
values of indigenous groups – where relatives
tended to live together and to be in close
contact.12 This generated societies where
interpersonal relations centered in the family and
relatives were dominant, with the corresponding
abundance of disinterested and collaborative
interpersonal relations. In other words, the
purpose of the relationship is not motivated by
an external task that needs to be performed
but by the existence of family ties and the
expectation for the relationship to be close,
warm, and enjoyable. It could be said that this
process leads to societies where the purpose
of the relationship is the relationship itself.
The culture that has emerged in Latin America
can be characterized by: the focus on the
nurturing of warm and close interpersonal
relations with relatives and friends, the centrality
of the family – both nuclear and extended – an
affective regime that values and encourages the
experience and manifestation of emotions, the
existence of relatively weak civic relationships
(those relations beyond family, friends, neighbors,
and colleagues), a relative disregard for
materialistic values, and weak political institutions.143
It can be stated that the Latin American culture
has a human-relations orientation. These cultural
features play a central role in explaining happiness
in Latin America.14 Culture plays a role in the
relevance of affective and evaluative aspects in
life, in how these affective and evaluative aspects
relate, and in the importance some drivers have
in explaining them. Affective experiences of
being well are highly relevant in Latin Americans’
happiness; in addition, affective and evaluative
aspects are not highly correlated in the region.
Hence, life evaluation measures provide an
incomplete picture of the Latin American
happiness situation. Furthermore, the variables
most often used to explain life evaluations play a
118
119
smaller role in explaining affective states in Latin
America. In consequence, it is necessary to have
a broader perspective in order to get a better
explanation of happiness in Latin America. This
chapter provides an explanation based on the
relevance of interpersonal relations, which are
abundant and of high quality in Latin America,
and which are not fully captured by commonly-
used indicators in the development discourse.
A cultural explanation necessarily relies on
comparisons, since the particular features of a
culture can only be shown when it is compared to
others. In order to portray some Latin American
cultural features we will compare them to their
counterparts in some Western European and
Anglo-Saxon countries.15 This comparison can
highlight the special features of the Latin American
culture, at least relative to the Anglo-Saxon and
Western European countries. Of course, it is
important to state that culture and region are
two different concepts that may overlap in some
cases but which are not exactly identical. By
associating culture with region one makes the
assumption that the particular features of a
culture predominate in a specific region, but this
does not make these features to be exclusive in
and of this region.
Life Evaluation and Affect
in Latin America
In general, Latin Americans’ evaluation of life16
is high with respect to what income and other
social indicators would predict; this finding
points toward the existence of an omitted-
variable situation in the explanation of Latin
Americans’ life evaluation. The affective state
– in particular positive affect – is outstandingly
high in Latin America; as a matter of fact, Latin
American countries usually show up in the top
positions when rankings are elaborated on the
basis of the experience of positive affect.
Moreover, the low correlation between affect
and evaluation in Latin America points towards
Figure 6.1: Life Evaluation in Latin American Countries
Note: Country means. Regional figures are computed as simple regional averages of country means.
Source: Gallup World Poll, waves 2006 to 2016.
World Happiness Report 2018
the need of incorporating people’s affective
state when aiming to have an overall assessment
of their happiness.
Life Evaluation in Latin America
Life evaluations in Latin American range from an
average of 7.15 in Costa Rica to 4.93 in Dominican
Republic on the basis of information from Gallup
World Polls from 2006 to 2016 (See Figure 6.1).
The simple country average for the Latin
American region is 6.07, which is not as high as
the average for the group of Western European
countries (6.95) or for the Anglo-Saxon countries
(7.38), but which is much greater than the simple
country average for all the countries in the world
(5.42).17 Given the economic and social conditions
in Latin America it comes as no surprise that, on
average, life evaluation in the region is much
lower than that in the European and Anglo-
Saxon countries, which continuously show much
better indicators in terms of income, income
distribution, income-poverty rates, transparency,
crime and violence rates, and education and
health. The high evaluative levels reported by
Costa Ricans (7.15) (See Figure 6.1), which are
above the average Western European levels, are
partially explained by the existence of a relatively
good welfare system in the country. There is no
army in Costa Rica since 1949, and the country’s
inhabitants have universal access to health care
and primary and secondary education, with the
government providing many services that ensure
the satisfaction of basic needs for most Costa
Ricans, independently of their income.
Figure 6.2 presents time trends in life evaluation
for some Latin American countries. Venezuela – a
country undergoing difficult political, social and
economic processes during the past years
– shows an astonishing decline in people’s
evaluation of life, moving from 7.6 in 2010 to 4.1
in 2016. The volatility of life evaluation is also
extremely high in Venezuela; as a matter of fact,
the average year to year change in Venezuela is
0.67. Peruvians have moved from an average life
Figure 6.2: Trends in Life Evaluation. Some Latin American Countries
Note: Country means over time.
Source: Gallup World Poll, waves 2006 to 2016.
120
121
evaluation of 4.9 in 2006 to one of 5.8 in 2016;
some increase in life evaluation is also observed
during the past years in Chile. The largest
countries in the region – Brazil and Mexico –
show a slightly negative trend in recent years.
One of the main questions regarding Latin
Americans’ life evaluation is whether it
corresponds to the social and economic
conditions in the region as they are portrayed
by commonly used indicators such as income
levels and other socio-economic indicators. Two
ordinary least square regression exercises are
implemented on the basis of all observations
from all countries in the Gallup World Polls
surveys from 2006 to 2016 in order to study this
correspondence between life evaluation in Latin
America and some relevant variables which have
been used to explain happiness. The first exercise
(model 1) uses the logarithm of household per
capita income as the unique explanatory variable
of life evaluation. The second exercise (model 2)
adds other explanatory variables such as: count
on the help, donated money, freedom in your life,
corruption within businesses, and corruption in
Government.18 Figure 6.3 presents the mean of
the estimated errors from these regressions for
the Latin American countries; as observed, with
the exception of the Dominican Republic all
other Latin American countries show actual life
evaluations higher than those predicted by the
global equation. This finding indicates that Latin
Americans tend to evaluate their lives above
what their income and what the set of commonly
used explanatory variables would predict. The
simple country average of the estimated error for
the whole region is between 0.71 (for model 2)
and 0.81 (for model 1). Hence, Latin Americans
Figure 6.3: Life Evaluation in Latin America. Estimated errors
from Regression Exercises
Note: Estimated errors from OLS regression analyses using all observations in the GWP 2006 to 2016 surveys.
Life evaluation as dependent variable, measured in a 0 to 10 scale. Independent variables in Model 1: logarithm
of household per capita income, having someone to count on, donated money, freedom in your life, corruption
within businesses, and corruption in Government. Independent variables in Model 2: logarithm of household per
capita income.
Source: Gallup World Polls, all waves 2006 to 2016.
World Happiness Report 2018
have life-evaluation levels that are above what
would correspond to their situation on the basis
of commonly used explanatory variables of life
evaluation. This finding suggests that there are
some factors which are relevant in explaining life
evaluation in Latin America and which are not
yet fully incorporated in the available data.
Affective State in Latin America
Latin Americans report outstandingly high levels
of positive affect. A simple average on the basis
of five questions19 in the Gallup World Poll and
which are associated to positive affect shows the
situation: eight of the top ten countries in the
world are from Latin America, as well as ten out
of the top fifteen countries. The non-Latin
American countries in the top ten are Canada
and Philippines (See Table 6.1).
It is important to remark that the outstanding
performance of Latin American countries in
positive affect does not correspond to the
situation in negative affect.20 In other words,
Latin Americans’ positive affect is very high, but
negative affect in the region is not low –neither
in comparison to other countries nor to what
would be expected on the basis of the socio-
economic situation in the region.
On the basis of information from Gallup World
Polls 2006 to 2016 it is evident that Latin
Americans enjoy very high positive affect (See
Figure 6.4). On average, the simple regional
mean for Latin Americans is similar to that for
the Anglo-Saxon countries and slightly higher
than that for the Western European countries.
Some countries like Paraguay, Panama and Costa
Rica enjoy very high positive affect.
Table 6.1: Top 15 Countries in the World in Positive Affect. Positive and Negative
Affect. Mean Values by Country. 2006–2016
Rank Country
Number
of observations Positive affect Negative affect
1Paraguay 10995 0.842 0.222
2Panama 11025 0.833 0.215
3Costa Rica 11006 0.829 0.279
4Venezuela 10994 0.824 0.243
5El Salvador 11008 0.818 0.319
6Guatemala 11045 0.812 0.297
7Colombia 10999 0.810 0.308
8Ecuador 11135 0.809 0.323
9Canada 11325 0.804 0.257
10 Philippines 12198 0.800 0.364
11 Iceland 3131 0.799 0.217
12 Denmark 10777 0.798 0.193
13 Honduras 10991 0.797 0.273
14 Norway 6010 0.797 0.208
15 Nicaragua 11015 0.796 0.312
All countries in the world 0.697 0.270
Note: Positive affect measured as simple average of the following five ‘day-before’ dichotomous variables: Smile
or laugh yesterday, Learn something, Treated with respect, Experienced enjoyment, and Feel well-rested. Negative
affect measured as simple average of the following five ‘day-before’ dichotomous variables: Experienced worry,
Sadness, Anger, Stress, and Depression. Positive and negative affect are measured in a 0 to 1 scale.
Source: Gallup World Poll waves 2006 to 2016.
122
123
While positive affect is more favorable in Latin
America, the reverse is true for negative affect,
with Bolivians and Peruvians reporting especially
high negative affect.
The information presented in Figure 6.4
corresponds to mean values across all years in
the surveys (2006 to 2016). However, some
countries show clear time trends and of particular
interest is the situation in Venezuela, where
positive affect have declined from a top value of
0.87 in 2010 to 0.74 in 2016 while negative affect
have risen from a value of 0.13 in 2010 to 0.42 in
2016 (See Figure 6.5). No doubt the complexities
of economic crisis, political polarization, high
violence, and migration and separation of families
are affecting the well-being of Venezuelans.
Positive affect is very high in Latin America
and negative affect is also high, but the main
question is whether they do correspond to the
levels of commonly used variables in the expla-
nation of happiness. Two regression exercises21
are implemented on the basis of all observations
in the Gallup World Polls surveys from 2006 to
2016 in order to study this correspondence
between affect in Latin America and some
relevant variables which are often used to explain
happiness. The first regression exercise (model 1)
uses the logarithm of household per capita
income as the unique explanatory variable of
affect. The second regression exercise (model 2)
adds other explanatory variables such as: count
on the help, donated money, freedom in your life,
corruption within businesses, and corruption in
government. Figure 6.6 presents the estimated
errors from these regressions for the case of
positive affect, while Figure 6.7 provides the
same information for the case of negative affect.
Figure 6.4: Positive and Negative Affect. Latin America, 2006–2016
Note: Country means in positive and negative affect. Regional averages refer to simple country means in the region.
Positive and negative affect are measured in a 0 to 1 scale.
Source: Gallup World Poll waves 2006-2016.
World Happiness Report 2018
Figure 6.5: Venezuela.
Trends in Positive and
Negative Affect. 2006–2016
Source: Gallup World Poll, waves 2006-2016.
Table 6.2: Explanatory Power of Some Relevant Variables.1 R-Squares from
Person-Level Regressions.2 By Region, 2006–2016
Dependent Variable
Region Life Evaluation Positive Affect Negative Affect
Latin America 0.064 0.034 0.031
Anglo-Saxon 0.107 0.064 0.078
Western Europe 0.215 0.094 0.119
All countries in world 0.181 0.072 0.032
1 List of explanatory variables in regressions: Count on help, Donated money, Freedom in your life, Corruption within
businesses, Corruption within government, and Logarithm of household per capita income.
2 Linear regressions, Ordinary least squares technique.
Source: Gallup World Poll waves 2006 to 2016.
124
125
It is observed in Figure 6.6 that positive affect is
very high with respect to corresponding income
levels as well as to the situation as described by
a group of variables which are often used to
explain people’s happiness. All Latin American
countries show, on average, positive affect levels
which are much above what would be predicted.
In addition, the regional average in Latin America
is much above that in the Anglo-Saxon and
Western European regions and, of course, much
above the world average (which is 0). Hence, it is
concluded that a strong tendency to experience
above-expected positive emotions is observed in
most Latin American countries. These findings
clearly indicate that the set of explanatory
variables which are commonly used in explaining
happiness is missing some relevant factors which
are relatively abundant in Latin America.
Estimated errors for negative affect in Latin
America do show a pattern which is closer to the
expected one: Some countries show negative
mean errors while others show positive mean
errors, and the regional average is small –but still
significantly different from zero. Hence, it is
concluded that a slight tendency to experience
above-expected negative emotions is observed
in most Latin American countries.
In addition, the explanatory variables of happiness
which are commonly used have less explanatory
power in Latin America. Table 6.2 presents the
goodness of fit (R-square coefficients) for
regional regression exercises with life evaluation,
positive affect, and negative affect as dependent
variables, and with the following variables
as explanatory ones: count on help, donated
Figure 6.6: Positive Affect. Estimated Errors
Notes: Estimated errors from worldwide regression analyses. Positive affect as dependent variable. Independent
variables in Model 1: logarithm of household per capita income, count on the help, donated money, freedom in your
life, corruption within businesses, and corruption in Government. Independent variables in Model 2: logarithm of
household per capita income. Positive affect is measured in a 0 to 1 scale.
Source: Gallup World Poll, all waves 2006 to 2016.
World Happiness Report 2018
money, freedom in your life, corruption within
businesses, corruption within government, and
logarithm of household per capita income. All
observations from the Gallup World Poll surveys
from 2006 to 2016 are used and regressions are
run by region. It is observed in Table 6.2 that
the group of independent variables has good
explanatory power in Western Europe, but very
little explanatory power in Latin America. For
example, while this group of independent
variables explains about 22 percent of the
variability of Western European’s life evaluation
they do only explain about 6 percent of the
variability of Latin Americans’ life evaluation.
Similarly, while the group of variables explains
9 percent of the variability of Western European’s
positive affect – and 12 percent of their negative
affect –, they do only explain 3 percent of the
variability of Latin American’s positive affect –
and 3 percent of their negative affect.
It is evident that Latin Americans are outliers
in what respect to their experience of positive
affect. Latin Americans’ positive affect is high in
comparison to most countries in the world and
also high with respect to what some commonly
Figure 6.7: Negative Affect. Estimated Errors
Notes: Estimated errors from worldwide regression analyses. Negative affect as dependent variable. Independent
variables in Model 1: logarithm of household per capita income, count on the help, donated money, freedom in your
life, corruption within businesses, and corruption in Government. Independent variables in Model 2: logarithm of
household per capita income. Negative affect is measured in a 0 to 1 scale.
Source: Gallup World Poll, all waves 2006 to 2016.
126
127
used explanatory variables would predict. A
slightly similar result is found for negative affect.
Hence, the explanation of happiness on the basis
of variables such as Income, count on help,
donated money, freedom in your life, corruption
within businesses, and corruption within govern-
ment, seems to be missing some very important
drivers, at least for the Latin American case.
Furthermore, the correlation between evaluative
and affective states is smaller in Latin America
than in other regions in the world. Figure 6.8
shows the simple country means by region for
the intra-country correlations22 between affects
(positive and negative) and life evaluation. It is
observed that the regional mean for the intra-
country correlations between positive affect and
life evaluation is much smaller in Latin America
(0.19) than in a group of Anglo-Saxon countries23
(0.32) as well as than in a group of western
European countries (0.28). In a similar way, the
regional mean for the intra-country correlations
between negative affect and life evaluation is
much smaller – in absolute terms – in Latin
America (-0.19) than in a group of Anglo-Saxon
countries (-.34) as well as than in a group of
western European countries (-.28).24
It is also important to state that the regional
mean values for intra-country correlations
between positive and negative affect are very
similar across the regions under study. The
regional mean values are -0.37 in Latin America,
-0.37 in Western Europe, and -0.42 in Anglo-
Saxon countries. In other words, the pattern of
personal correlations between positive and
negative affects does not seem to vary
substantially across regions in the world.
However, the pattern of personal correlations
between positive affect and life evaluation as
well as between negative affect and life
evaluation does substantially differ across
regions.
Figure 6.8: Life Evaluations and Affective States. Intra-Country Correlations,
Means by Region
Note: Simple means of intra-country correlations between positive affect (Pos Aff), negative affect (Neg Aff), and life
evaluation (LE). Simple means by region.
Source: Gallup World Poll wave 2006 to 2016.
World Happiness Report 2018
Affective experiences are an important substrate
in overall assessments of life, and they play a
central role in people’s aspirations and behavior.
The outstandingly high positive affect levels in
Latin America, their lack of correspondence to
life-evaluation measures, and the relatively low
correlation between life evaluation and affective
states call for further study of the affective
situation in the region. Furthermore, it is clear
that the set of commonly used explanatory
variables for life evaluation provide an incomplete
explanation for both evaluative and emotional
happiness in Latin America. An expanded study
of affective regimes, emotional communities, and
emotional regimes25 could contribute to a better
understanding of how the relevance of affective
states in a region is associated to its cultural
attributes. The results from this study could help
to understand the emergence of communities
and societies that value, promote, and have
particular attitudes to the experience of positive
affect.26 In addition, it is also important to further
study the drivers of affective states because the
nature and dynamics of these drivers could
explain the behavior of affect in a society.27 For
example, the abundance of close and intimate
interpersonal relations could be a driver for
the experience of high positive affect but also,
when relations are not going well, of high
negative affect.
Some scholars have pointed to the apparent
contradiction that emerges when contrasting the
socio-economic situation in many Latin American
countries with the high happiness levels reported
by Latin Americans. The following two sections
address this issue and show that there is no
contradiction. The next section shows that the
socio-economic and political problems in the
region do depress people’s happiness; however,
these problems do not suffice to generate low
happiness in the region because Latin America’s
Figure 6.9: Corruption, Victimization and Economic Difficulties in Latin America
Notes: Corruption: percentage of people in the country stating that almost everyone or most officials in the municipal
government are corrupt. Economic difficulties: percentage stating that income is not sufficient so that they have
either problems or big problems to cover their needs. Victimization: percentage of people reporting that they have
been victims of crime during the past 12 months.
Source: Information processed on the basis of Latinobarometer 2013.Source: Gallup World Poll wave 2006 to 2016.
128
129
social organization promotes and nurtures some
drivers of happiness which are not fully captured
by commonly-used explanatory variables. The
following section elaborates an explanation of
Latin Americans’ happiness in terms of the
importance human relations have in the region,
not only as a source of material support but,
fundamentally, as a source of positive affect and
of non-materialistic purpose in life. In particular,
the abundance and the quality of family relations
play a crucial role in understanding happiness in
Latin America.
Social, Economic and Political
Problems in Latin America and
Their Impact on Happiness
Latin America is no paradise; there are many
social and economic problems in the region.
Some of the problems are structural and emerge
from historical processes, such as: weak political
institutions, high corruption levels, and high
income inequality that magnifies poverty rates in
what would mostly be considered as mid-income
countries. Other problems have been triggered
by recent processes; for example: the closeness
to the largest drug market in the world combined
with a wrong strategy that looks to represses
production rather than to reduce consumption
has exacerbated drug-related violence and has
led to alarming crime rates in some areas of Latin
America. This process of rising violence is also
fostered by weak civic interpersonal relations,
high corruption rates, and greater penetration
of materialistic values during the last decades.
Figure 6.9 shows some figures on corruption,
victimization and economic difficulties which
suffice to portray the situation of social problems
in the region. The belief that there is some level
of corruption at the local and national govern-
mental levels is widespread in Latin America.
Country level figures for municipal-level
corruption go as high as 82 percent in Mexico;
with relatively low figures -beneath 40 percent-
in Chile and Uruguay.28
Living within some degree of economic difficulty
is also common in most countries of Latin
America. For example, about 36 percent of
Brazilians and 53 percent of Mexicans declare
Table 6.3: Corruption, Economic Difficulties and Victimization. Impact on
Life Satisfaction
Coefficient Prob>t
Perception of
corruption
municipal level
Almost everyone is corrupt -0.106 0.000
Most officials are corrupt -0.093 0.000
Not many officials are involved -0.050 0.045
There is hardly anyone involved Reference
Economic
difficulties.
Problems or
big problems to
cover their needs
It is not sufficient, has big problems -0.409 0.000
It is not sufficient, has problems -0.242 0.000
It is just sufficient, does not have major problems -0.036 0.066
It is sufficient, can save Reference
Victimization
during the past
12 months
both you and relative -0.126 0.000
you -0.067 0.000
relative -0.042 0.003
none Reference
R2 0.116
Note. Control variables: marital state, gender, age, age squared, education level, language, country dummies.
Source: Latinobarometer 2013.
World Happiness Report 2018
that their earnings are insufficient to cover
their needs. This figure reaches levels above
60 percent in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua
and Dominican Republic, and it is not beneath
30 percent in any country in the region.
Many people report being victims of crime
during the past year; for example, this figure
reaches levels of 20 percent in Mexico and it is
above 15 percent in Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela
and Brazil. The fear of victimization is high in
some areas of Latin America, where people have
directly been a victim of crime or know of a
relative who has been.
Latin Americans are not immune to the many
social and economic problems they do live with.
Table 6.3 shows the results from an econometric
exercise that studies the impact of corruption,
violence and economic difficulties on life
satisfaction. It is clear that life satisfaction
declines with the presence of perceptions of
corruption, with economic difficulties, and with
exposure to crime.29
The existence of social problems and of economic
difficulties does reduce happiness in Latin America,
but it does not necessarily imply low happiness.
How can Latin Americans experience high
happiness levels within this context? There are
many positive factors in the region, in particular
the nature and abundance of close and warm
interpersonal relations. This specific structure of
Latin Americans’ interpersonal relations allows
them to enjoy high levels of satisfaction in
domains of life that are particularly important to
Latin Americans: the social domain and, in
especial, the family domain of life.
The Importance of the Relational
Realm in Latin America
Latin Americans spend much time and resources
in the nurturing of interpersonal relations.30 Some
Latin American social thinkers have made a
distinction between the realm of relations and the
realm of the material world; their research shows
Figure 6.10: Percentage of People Who Report Living with Parents.
Adult People in the World Value Survey
95% confidence interval
Source: World Value Survey, all waves.
130
131
that Latin Americans give greater importance to
the relational realm and, in consequence, to the
creation and sustain of interpersonal relations.31
The family – both the nuclear one and the extended
one – is a central institution in Latin American
culture and it is also an important source of
positive affect and of purpose in life.
This section shows that the nature of Latin
American interpersonal relations substantially
differ from those in other regions of the world
–in particular from those in Western European
and Anglo-Saxon countries. Latin Americans
place great interest in nurturing their
interpersonal relations, and this implies for the
abundance of warm and close relationships
that positively impact family satisfaction as well
as overall happiness –both from an evaluative
and from an affective perspective. Family
satisfaction is very high in Latin America, and
close and warm relations do also extend to
friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
Living in the Family
Most people grow up in families. But in some
cultures it is expected for them to leave their
family as soon as they reach adulthood, while in
Latin American people tend to live longer with
their parents and do not necessarily leave their
family when they become adults. By living longer
in the family people extend their companionship
with those they grew up with, and with whom a
close, disinterested, and long-lasting relationship
already exists. It is also common to find elder
parents living in their adult-children households.
Information from the World Value Surveys (all
waves) shows that adult people in Latin American
tend to live with their parents in a larger
proportion than those from Western European
countries and from Anglo-Saxon countries (See
Figure 6.10). The simple country average for
those Latin American countries in the survey is
33 percent, which shows that one third of people
Figure 6.11: Under School Age Kids: Provider of Childcare. Percentage Who Say
Family Members
Note: Other response options are: government agencies, non-profit organizations, private childcare providers,
and employers.
Source: International Social Survey Program’s module on Family and Changing Gender Roles IV (2012)
World Happiness Report 2018
Figure 6.12: Provider of Domestic Help to Elderly People. Percentage Who Say
it is for Family Members to Take Care of Domestic Help for Elderly People
Note: Other response options are: government agencies, non-profit organizations, private childcare providers,
and employers.
Source: International Social Survey Program’s module on Family and Changing Gender Roles IV (2012)
Figure 6.13: Taking Care of Family Before Helping Others. Country Means
Note: You should take care of yourself and your family first, before helping other people. Response scale: 5 Agree
strongly, 4 agree, 3 neither agree nor disagree, 2 disagree, 1 disagree strongly.
Source: International Social Survey Program, Social Networks II, 2001.
132
133
who were surveyed reported living with their
parents. This figure is only 12 percent for those
western European countries and only 9 percent
for those Anglo-Saxon countries included in
Figure 6.10.
The extension of children’s stay at home as well
as the incorporation of the elders in their grown-
up children’s households implies an abundance
of close and normally supportive interpersonal
relationships. When these relationships are
gratifying they do contribute to both high live
evaluation and the enjoyment of high positive
affect; however, in those cases where the
intimate relationships become unsatisfactory
they may detonate the experience of strong
negative affect.32
Taking Care of Children and Elderly
in the Family
Family members do also play a central role in
child rearing in Latin America, and many elder
persons do live with their adult children and their
grandchildren and/or do keep in close contact
with them.
The International Social Survey Program’s
module on Family and Changing Gender Roles IV
(2012) asked the following two questions to
people from many countries: First, ‘People have
different views on childcare for children under
school age. Who do you think should primarily
provide childcare?’, second, ‘Thinking about
elderly people who need some help in their
everyday lives, such as help with grocery
shopping, cleaning the house, doing the laundry
etc. Who do you think should primarily provide
this help?’. The information from the survey
shows that Latin Americans strongly believe that
the family must play a central role in raising kids
as well as in taking care of the elder. The simple
Figure 6.14: One of Main Goals: Make My Parents Proud. Country Means
Note: Making parents proud as one of the main goals in life. Response scale: Strongly agree (4), Agree (3), Disagree
(2), Strongly disagree (1)
Source: World Value Survey, all waves.
World Happiness Report 2018
country average for people responding that the
family should take care of under-school age kids
is 76 percent in the Latin American countries in
the survey. The same figure is only 33 percent
for Western European countries and 46 percent
for Anglo-Saxon countries in the survey (See
Figure 6.11).
Similarly, a larger proportion of Latin Americans
do also believe that elderly people should be
supported by their family members rather than
by governmental and private institutions. The
simple country average for those Latin American
countries in the survey is 77 percent, while this
figure is 36 percent in the Western European
countries and 52 percent in the Anglo Saxon
countries in Figure 6.12.
A larger proportion of under-school-age
children in Latin America grow up within a
family environment and enjoying the close
interaction with people who love them and
who are intrinsically motivated to take care of
them. Elder people do also frequently enjoy the
company of loved ones. Research has shown that
there are positive emotional benefits of growing
in family environments where parents are present
in the raising of their kids.33
Preference for Taking Care of Family
The ISSP Social Networks II survey (2001) asked
people about their degree of agreement with the
following statement: “You should take care of
yourself and your family first, before helping
other people”. There were only two Latin American
countries in this survey, but the data shows that
people in Brazil – Latin America’s largest country
– tend to strongly agree with this statement,
while in Chile people do agree with the statement
(Figure 6.13).
Figure 6.15: Watching Children Grow is Greatest Joy. Country Means
Note: Watching children grow up is greatest joy. Response scale: 5 Strongly agree, 4 Agree, 3 Neither agree nor
disagree, 2 Disagree, 1 Strongly disagree.
Source: International Social Survey Program’s module on Family and Changing Gender Roles IV (2012)
134
135
This information does not only show the concern
people have for the well-being of family members
in Latin America, but it also shows a relative
disregard for the well-being of people who
are neither relatives or friends. Hence, family
relations are relatively strong, but civic relations
are relatively weak in Latin America; and this
takes place in countries with weak institutional
arrangements.
Life Evaluation Incorporates Family
Considerations
People’s evaluation of life, as well as their
affective experiences, depends on the attainment
of those goals that they consider important.
Goals and values play a central role in the
relationship between drivers of happiness and
happiness itself. The importance of the realm
of relations in Latin Americans’ way of life does
also show up in the greater relevance of some
relational goals, such as making parents proud
and watching children grow up.34
The World Value Survey asks people on the
degree of agreement with the following state-
ment: “One of my main goals in life has been to
make my parents proud”. Figure 6.14 presents
the simple averages for the degree of agreement
with this statement in many Latin American
countries as well as in some West European and
Anglo-Saxon countries. It is observed that there
is a huge difference in the degree of agreement
with this statement between Latin Americans
and people from the other two regions under
consideration; as a matter of fact the simple
country average in Latin America is 3.40, while
this figure is 2.74 for the Western European
countries and 2.87 for the Anglo-Saxon countries
under consideration.
The International Social Survey Programme’s
Family and Changing Gender Roles IV module
does also have a question on the relevance of
watching children grow up. To be specific, the
question asks for the degree of agreement with
the following statement: “To what extent do you
Figure 6.16: Uncles and Aunts. Visited More than Twice in the Last Four Weeks
Note: Percentage of people who visited at least one uncle or aunt ‘more than twice in the last four weeks’
Source: International Social Survey Programme’s block on Social Networks II (2001)
World Happiness Report 2018
Figure 6.17: Cousins. Visited More than Twice in the Last Four Weeks
Note: Percentage of people who visited at least one cousin ‘more than twice in the last four weeks’
Source: International Social Survey Programme’s block on Social Networks II (2001)
Figure 6.18: Nieces and Nephews. Visited More than Twice in the Last Four Weeks
Note Percentage of people who visited at least one niece or nephew ‘more than twice in the last four weeks’
Source: International Social Survey Programme’s block on Social Networks II (2001)
136
137
agree or disagree?: Watching children grow up is
life’s greatest joy”. The information presented in
Figure 6.15 shows that the nurturing of children
is a source of greatest joy in Latin American
countries. The simple country average for the
Latin American countries in the sample is 4.48,
while this figure is 4.29 for the Western European
countries and 4.18 for the Anglo-Saxon countries
in the study.
Goals and values do intervene both in the
evaluation of life as well as in the triggering of
affective states. The more relational-oriented
goals of Latin Americans implies for happiness
to depend closely on the family situation and on
the quality and quantity of family relations.35
The Presence of Extended Family
It is natural for most people to have an extended
family: cousins, uncles and aunts, nieces and
nephews, grandparents, grandchildren, god-
parents and so on. However, the degree of
involvement of extended-family members in a
person’s life may vary across cultures. The
International Social Survey Programme’s Social
Networks II (2001) asked people about how
often they have been in contact with the
following kind of relatives in the last four weeks:
Uncles and aunts, Cousins, and Nieces and
nephews. Only two Latin American countries are
present in the survey: Brazil and Chile, and it is
important to note that Chile usually performs
relatively low within the Latin American ranking
of these kinds of interpersonal relations. Figures
6.16 to 6.18 show the percentage of respondents
who say that they visited their relative ‘More than
twice in the last four weeks’. It is observed that
the extended-family is quite involved in the daily
life of Brazilians. The interaction with the extended
family in Chile is also much above of that in the
Western European countries in the survey.
Hence, the involvement and interaction with
members of the extended family is quite high
in Latin America. Research on the relationship
between quantity and quality of relationships
with relatives and life satisfaction is scarce –
probably as a consequence of these relationships
being relatively scarse in those countries where
Figure 6.19: Visit Closest Friend Daily or at Least Several Times a Week
Note: Percentage responding daily or at least several times a week
Source: International Social Survey Programme’s block on Social Networks II (2001)
World Happiness Report 2018
major research is undertaken –; however, some
findings suggest that this kind of relationship
may contribute to people’s happiness.36
Close Relationships with Close Friends
The realm of close interpersonal relations in Latin
America extends beyond the nuclear and extended
family. Friends are also highly involved in the
daily life of Latin Americans, and friends are
expected to play an important role not only in
bringing emotional and economic support but
also in sharing daily life.
The International Social Survey Programme’s
block on Social Networks II (2001) has a couple of
questions regarding the involvement and support
which is expected from friends in different coun-
tries of the world. Two Latin American countries
are included in this survey: Brazil and Chile.
The first question asks how often people see
or visit their closest friend. Figure 6.19 shows
the percentage of people who report seeing or
visiting their closest friend daily or at least
several times a week. It is observed that this
percentage is very high in Brazil and it is also
high in Chile.
The second question asks people about their
degree of agreement with the following statement:
People who are better off should help friends who
are less well off ”. Figure 6.20 shows that in the two
Latin American countries in the survey there is
wide agreement about expecting friends who are
better off to help those who are less well off.
Data from other sources, such as the BIARE-
Mexico (National Statistical Office survey on
self-reported well-being) and the United States’
General Social Survey show that people in
Mexico gather more often and more frequently
with relatives and with friends than people in the
United States. For example, 77 percent of people
in Mexico state that they gather with relatives at
least several times per month, while this figure is
of 53 percent in the United States. Regarding
gathering with friends several times per month,
the figure is 68 percent in Mexico and 45 percent
in the United States.
Figure 6.20: People Better Off Should Help Friends
Note: Country averages; people who are better off should help their friends. Response scale: 5 Agree strongly,
4 agree, 3 neither agree nor disagree, 2 disagree, 1 disagree strongly
Source: International Social Survey Programme’s block on Social Networks II (2001)
138
139
High Family Satisfaction in Latin America and
its Importance for Happiness
Given the nature of interpersonal relations in
Latin America and the centrality of the family it
should come as no surprise that family satisfaction
is very high in the region. The International Social
Survey Programme’s module on Family and
Changing Gender Roles IV (2012) has a question
on family satisfaction: ‘All things considered, how
satisfied are you with your family life?’. The
response scale is categorical and in this chapter
it is treated as cardinal in a 1 to 7 scale for
descriptive purposes, where 7 is associated to a
‘completely satisfied’ response. Figure 6.21 shows
country means for family satisfaction in Latin
America, Western Europe and Anglo-Saxon
countries. The simple country average for the
four Latin American countries in the survey is
5.87, which is much higher than the average for
the Western European countries in the graph
(5.58) and for the Anglo Saxon countries (5.60)
High family satisfaction is of the greatest
relevance in explaining high happiness in Latin
America, both in terms of evaluation of life as
well as of enjoyment of positive emotions.
An Illustration from Mexico
Mexico’s National Statistical Office (INEGI) has
recently started measuring subjective well-being
indicators in order to have better assessments of
people’s situation. A large representative survey
(about 39,000 observations) implemented in 2014
provides information about: life satisfaction,
satisfaction with achievements in life, satisfaction
with affective life, family satisfaction, standard
of living satisfaction, health satisfaction, leisure
satisfaction, occupation satisfaction, and social
life satisfaction. all variables are measured in a
0 to 10 scale. Figure 6.22 presents descriptive
statistics for these variables; it is observed that
Mexicans report very high levels of family satis-
faction and that their satisfaction with affective
life is higher than that with achievements in life.
Figure 6.21: Family Satisfaction
Note: Satisfaction with family, country means. ‘All things considered, how satisfied are you with your family life?’
Response scale: Completely satisfied (7), very satisfied (6), fairly satisfied (5), neither satisfied nor dissatisfied (4),
fairly dissatisfied (3), very dissatisfied (2), completely dissatisfied (1).
Source: International Social Survey Programme’s module on Family and Changing Gender Roles IV (2012)
World Happiness Report 2018
Figure 6.22: Subjective Well-Being Information. Mean Values, Mexico 2014
Note: Satisfaction measured in a 0 to 10 scale.
Source: BIARE survey 2014, Mexico’s National Statistical Office (INEGI)
Table 6.4: Domains of Life Explanation of Satisfaction with Affective Life and
with Achievements in Life. Mexico 2014. Ordinary Least Square Regression
Satisfaction with achievements in life Satisfaction with affective life
Coefficient P>t Coefficient P>t
Family satisfaction 0.085 0.000 0.428 0.000
Standard of living satisfaction 0.273 0.000 0.192 0.000
Health satisfaction 0.132 0.000 0.052 0.000
Leisure satisfaction 0.098 0.000 0.039 0.000
Occupation satisfaction 0.137 0.000 0.055 0.000
Social life satisfaction 0.085 0.000 0.105 0.000
Intercept 1.520 0.000 1.107 0.000
R_squared 0.359 0.321
Source: BIARE survey 2014, Mexico’s National Statistical Office (INEGI)
140
141
Relatively low levels of satisfaction are seen in
the standard of living and leisure (free-time)
domains of life.
Table 6.4 presents the main results from an
econometric exercise that aims at explaining
satisfaction with achievements in life and with
affective life on the basis of satisfaction in
domains of life.
It is observed that family satisfaction has, by
far, the largest impact on the satisfaction with
affective life of Mexicans. Family satisfaction
is also statistically significant in explaining
satisfaction with achievements in life; however,
in this case the standard of living has a much
larger coefficient. It seems that interpersonal
relations matter for both affective and evaluative
aspects of life, but they count more for the
former than for the latter.37
Conclusions
Latin Americans report high happiness levels.
Positive-affect scores are substantially high both
in comparison to other countries in the world
and to what income levels in the region would
predict. Latin Americans’ evaluation of life is also
above what income levels would predict.
Many social and economic indicators portray
Latin America as a mid to low income-level
region with high poverty rates, great income
inequality, high violence and crime rates, and high
levels of corruption. How can Latin Americans
be so happy within a context that may look
somehow unfavorable? This chapter has shown
that the happiness of Latin Americans is
diminished by their many social and economic
problems and that, in fact, happiness could
increase if these problems were properly
addressed. However, it would be a big mistake to
assume that these problems overwhelm the daily
lives of Latin Americans. In fact, it would be a
focusing-illusion bias to assume that Latin
Americans must be unhappy because there are
some problems in their life. In fact, the daily life
of Latin Americans is not constricted to the
consequences of income poverty, institutional
corruption, income inequality, crime and
violence, and other problems. This chapter
shows that there are many positive factors that
contribute to the happiness of Latin Americans;
in particular, the abundance and quality of close,
warm, and genuine interpersonal relations.
The specific structure of Latin Americans’
interpersonal relations allows them to enjoy high
levels of satisfaction in domains of life that are
particularly important to Latin Americans: the
social domain and, in especial, the family domain
of life. It explains the outstandingly high positive
affect in the region as well as the above-expected
evaluative states.
The Latin American case shows that the
abundance and nature of interpersonal relations
is an important driver of happiness which
deserves further attention, as was emphasized
in Chapter 2 of World Happiness Report 2017.
Happiness research that focuses on evaluative
measures may risk underestimating the impor-
tance that close, warm and genuine interpersonal
relations have in people’s happiness because
their impact is larger on affective than on
evaluative states. Happiness in relational-
oriented societies may be better portrayed by
overall assessments of life that incorporate
information from both the evaluative and the
affective substrates.
There are many lessons from the Latin American
case to the development discourse.
First, it shows the need of going beyond
objective measures when aiming to assess
people’s situation. Subjective well-being
measures provide better assessments of the
experience of being well people have and
contribute to a better understanding of their
actions. Subjective well-being measures better
incorporate the values people have and which
are relevant in assessing their lives; because
values differ across cultures this subjectivity
constitutes an advantage when making
cross-cultural assessments of people’s
well-being.
Second, the Latin American case does not ignore
the importance of income, but it clearly shows
that there is more to life than income. The
development discourse should neither confuse
persons with consumers nor well-being with
purchasing power.
Third, the Latin American case shows that
genuine, warm, and person-based interpersonal
relations substantially contribute to happiness.
The development discourse has neglected these
relations in favor of instrumental ones, which
World Happiness Report 2018
may have a larger impact on economic growth
but not on people’s happiness. By objectifying
other people, instrumental relations are not as
gratifying as genuine ones.
Fourth, it is not only acceptable for but also
expected from public policy to focus on solving
social problems; however, such policies will not
succeed in raising happiness if they neglect the
positive aspects of social life, and if they follow a
partial rather than integral view. In fact, policies
should not focus only on eradicating problems
but also on strengthening those riches Latin
Americans currently have.
142
143
Endnotes
1 According to the Human Development Report 2017 Mexico,
Costa Rica, Panamá, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Colombia,
Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil and Uruguay are classified
as ‘High Human Development’. Chile and Argentina are
classified as ‘Very High Human Development’. Guatemala,
El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Paraguay are
classified as ‘Medium Development’. Haiti, which has a
different history, is the only country in the region classified
as ‘Low Human Development’.
2 Rojas (2012a), Beytía (2016, 2018), Yamamoto (2016)
3 Rojas & García (2017)
4 Puchet et al. (2012), Rojas (2012b), Casas-Zamora and
Carter (2017), O’Donnell (1999), Gasparini and Lustig (2011),
Jaitman (2017), World Bank (2011)
5 Culture is neither static nor fully determined by past events
and the concept involves extreme simplification and
homogenization (Holler, 2014); however, it is relevant to
explain the phenomenon of high happiness in Latin
America.
6 It is important to recognize that the Mayan civilization had
seen better times in the past.
7 Bushnell et al. (2017) mention the following factors
promoting the mixing of Europeans and Indians in Latin
America: The relatively scarcity of Spanish women in the
new territory induced male Spaniards to quickly mixed with
indigenous women. Inter-ethnic mixing was no alien to
Spanish conquerors and colonizers as a result of the recent
history of coexistence of Moors and Christians in the Iberian
Peninsula. The idea of accumulating wealth before marrying
was common among Spanish men, and the custom of
having illegitimate children was already widely spread in
Spain at the time of conquest and colony. In addition, the
indigenous civilizations had social hierarchies, with many
male and female Indians enjoying high social status.
8 Las Casas (1945, 1951, 1967), Díaz del Castillo (1955),
León-Portilla (2014), Estrada (2009)
9 Bonfill (1994), Morandé (1971, 1985), Zea (1971, 1985), Larraín
(1971), de Imaz (1984). It is important to remark that the
blending of values and worldviews does not necessarily
imply the complete integration of Europeans and indigenous
groups; many studies show that even today there is some
discrimination on the basis of the skin color (Ortiz et al.,
2018)
10 Noguera and Pineda (2011), Ángel Maya (1995, 2002, 2006)
11 Acosta (2008), Gudynas and Acosta (2011)
12 Esteinou (2004), Arizpe (1973), Gonzalbo (1996, 1998),
Gonzalbo and Rabell (1996)
13 Díaz-Guerrero (1979), Germany (1965), Díaz-Loving et al.
(2008).
14 Rojas & García-Vega (2017), Yamamoto (2016), Beytía (fc),
Velásquez (2016), Martínez Cruz & Castillo Flores (2016),
Mochón Morcillo & de Juan Díaz (2016), Ateca-Amestoy et
al. (2014).
15 The specific countries which are included in the Western
European and Anglo-Saxon lists may vary across analyses
due to the availability of information. However, in general
the Western European classification makes reference to the
following countries: United Kingdom, France, Germany,
Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Greece,
Denmark, Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg,
Switzerland, Norway, Portugal, and Ireland. The Anglo-
Saxon classification makes reference to the following
countries: United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
16 Life evaluation is measured on the following question from
the Gallup Polls: “Please imagine a ladder with steps
numbered from zero at the bottom to ten at the top.
Suppose we say that the top of the ladder represents the
best possible life for you, and the bottom of the ladder
represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of
the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at
this time, assuming that the higher the step the better you
feel about your life, and the lower the step the worse you
feel about it? Which step comes closest to the way you
feel?” The response to the question is based on an
imaginary 11-point scale whereby 0 designates one’s
worst possible life and 10 denotes the best possible life
respondents can imagine for themselves.
17 Figures are computed using information from the Gallup
World Poll waves 2006 to 2016. The survey includes 166
countries and regions.
18 If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you
can count on to help you whenever you need them, or not?
(1=yes, 0=no). Donated money to a charity (1=yes, 0=no).
Whether the respondent is satisfied with the freedom to
choose what do to with his or her life in this country (1=yes,
0=no). Whether the respondent thinks there is corruption
in businesses (1=yes, 0=no). Whether the respondent thinks
there is corruption in government (1=yes, 0=no).
19 The five dichotomous variables are: Smile or laugh
yesterday, learn something, treated with respect,
experienced enjoyment, and feel well-rested. The questions
in the survey ask whether this affect was experienced the
day before.
20 Negative affect is assessed as the simple average of the
following dichotomous variables in the Gallup World Poll:
Experience worry, Sadness, Anger, Stress, and Depression.
The Gallup survey asks whether the person experienced the
emotion the day before, with a Yes or No answer.
21 The regression exercises use an ordinary least square
technique, which means that the independent variable is
treated as a cardinal one.
22 By intra-country correlations we mean the correlations
between affect and life evaluation based on differences
across persons living in the same country.
23 Canada, United States, Australia and New Zealand.
24 It is also possible to estimate regional correlations based on
country mean values of life evaluation, and positive and
negative affect. It is found that these correlations do also
differ across regions. For example, the correlation between
country means of positive affect and life evaluation is 0.87
in the Western European region and only 0.29 in the Latin
American region. Similarly, the correlation between
negative affect and life evaluation is -0.90 in the western
European region and only -.36 in the Latin American region.
This finding basically indicates that by knowing a Western
European country’s life evaluation mean it is possible to
predict with high confidence this country’s positive and
negative-affect means; however, this would not be possible
for Latin American countries, where a relatively high life
evaluation is not necessarily associated to a relatively high
positive affect or a relatively low negative affect in a
country.
25 Sterns and Sterns, 1985; Rosenweim, 2002; Reddy, 2001.
26 Holler, 2014; Villa-Flores and Lipsett-Rivera, 2014; Rivera,
2000. It may also be interesting to note that a study of
human language found that Latin American languages
show the greatest positivity in comparison to other
languages in the study. The authors state that “Mexican
Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese exhibit relatively high
medians” (Dodds et al., 2015; p. 2390) in perceived average
word happiness for 10 languages under study.
27 Rojas, 2013; Rojas and Guardiola, 2017.
28 Some international data shows that corruption in Latin
America is comparatively high. Transparency International’s
Corruption Perception Index (CPI) goes from 0 (highest
level of perceived corruption) to 100 (lowest level of
perceived corruption). The mean value of the CPI for Latin
American countries is 37.9, which is slightly lower than the
mean value for the world (42.9) and much lower than the
value for Western European countries (74.8) and for the
Anglo-Saxon countries (81.2). This means that Latin
America’s perceived corruption level is higher than the
world average and much higher than those levels in
Western Europe and the Anglo-Saxon countries, according
to data from 2016 of Transparency International. Uruguay,
Chile and Costa Rica present the lowest levels of perceived
corruption in Latin America, while Guatemala, Nicaragua
and Venezuela present the highest levels.
29 Country-level studies suggest that negative events such as
corruption and victimization trigger negative affect and
reduce life evaluation (Leyva et al., 2016)
30 In some towns of Mexico people do also spend a lot of time
and resources nourishing their relationship with the dead
ones. The night before The Day of the Death (November
2nd) the living ones gather in the cemeteries with their
dead relatives in order to celebrate and eat together.
Relatives are always present, even after they have died.
31 Díaz Guerrero (1997)
32 See Leyva et al., 2016. It may be stated that in terms of the
experience of affective states close, warm, and disinterest-
ed interpersonal relations provide greater mean returns but
also greater risk.
33 For the importance of parent-child relationships see Noble
and McGrath (2012) and O’Brien and Mosco (2012) For a
review of many studies on the emotional benefits of family
relationships see Kasser (2002) For an in-depth study of
the importance of parent-child relationships for life
satisfaction over the life course see Layard et al. (2013) and
Clark et al. (2018)
34 Germani (1965); Díaz-Guerrero (1979); Yamamoto (2016)
35 Domains-of-life studies in Latin America show that the
family domain is crucial in explaining life satisfaction as well
as its evaluative and affective substrates (Rojas, 2006,
2012c)
36 On the basis of information from the United Kingdom
Powdthavee (2008) finds that frequency of contact with
relatives –as well as with friends- does make a significant
impact on people’s happiness. Powdthavee concludes that
“the estimated figure is even larger than that of getting
married . . . It can compensate for nearly two-third in the
loss of the happiness from going through a separation or
unemployment”. Nguyen at al. (2016) also find that the
frequency of contact with family members has a positive
impact on life satisfaction, happiness and self-esteem;
however, the delimitation of family members is not clear in
the study. There is also some research finding out that
inter-generational family relations are very relevant for the
well-being of elder people (Katz, 2009) Of course, there is
also an ample literature on relational goods which empha-
sizes the importance of interpersonal relations without
providing an in-depth study of specific kinds of family
relations (Gui, 2005; Gui and Stanca, 2010; Becchetti et al.,
2008) Relatedness is also considered a basic psychological
need by Deci and Ryan (1985), while Grinde (2009)
elaborates an evolutionary argument about the importance
of community relations for people’s well-being.
37 Life satisfaction is highly correlated with both satisfaction
with affective life (0.42) and satisfaction with achievements
in life (0.46).
World Happiness Report 2018
144
145
References
Acosta, A. (2008). El buen vivir, una oportunidad por construir.
Ecuador Debate, 75, 33-47.
Ángel Maya, A. (1995). La fragilidad ambiental de la cultura.
Bogotá: Editorial Universidad Nacional Instituto de Estudios
Ambientales IDEA.
Ángel Maya, A. (2006). Ataraxia. Cali: Universidad Autónoma
de Occidente.
Ángel Maya, A. (2002). El retorno de Icaro; Serie La Razón de la
Vida X. Pensamiento ambiental latinoamericano 3, Bogotá:
ASOCAR, IDEA, PNUMA, PNUD.
Arizpe, L. (1973). Parentezco y economía en una sociedad
nahua. México: Colección SEP-INI.
Ateca-Amestoy, V., Cortés Aguilar, A., & Moro-Egido A. (2014).
Social interactions and subjective well-being: Evidence from
Latin America. Journal of Happiness Studies, 15, 527-554.
Becchetti, L., Pelloni, A., & Rossetti, F. (2008). Relational goods,
sociability, and happiness. Kyklos 61(3), 343-363.
Beytía, P. (2018). The efficiency of subjective well-being: A key
of Latin American development. In Bula, G., & Masaheli, M.
(Eds.). Latin American perspectives on global development.
Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Beytía, P. (2016). The singularity of Latin American patterns of
happiness. In Rojas, M. (Ed.) Handbook of happiness research in
Latin America, Springer.
Beytía, P. (forthcoming). Vínculos familiares: una clave
explicativa de la felicidad. In Reyes, C. & Muñoz, M. La familia en
tiempos de cambio. Ediciones UC.
Bonfil, G. (1994). México Profundo. Una civilización negada.
México DF: Editorial Grijalbo.
Bushnell, D., Lockhart, J., & Kittleson, R.A. (2017). History of
Latin America, Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from www.
britannica.com/place/Latin-America.
Casas-Zamora, K., & Carter, M. (2017). Beyond the scandals: The
changing context of corruption in Latin America, Washington
DC: Inter-American Dialogue.
Clark, A.E., Flèche, S., Layard, R., Powdthavee, N., & Ward, G.
(2018) The origins of happiness: the science of well-being over
the life course, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
de Imaz J.L. (1984). Sobre la identidad iberoamericana. Buenos
Aires: Editorial Sudamericana.
Deci, E., & R. Ryan (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determi-
nation in human behavior. New York: Plenum Press.
Díaz del Castillo, B. (1955). Historia verdadera de la conquista
de la Nueva España. Madrid: Espasa-Calpe.
Díaz-Guerrero, R. (2007). La evolución de la cohesión familiar.
In Díaz-Guerrero, R., Psicología del mexicano 2: Bajo las garras
de la cultura. México, D.F.: Editorial Trillas.
Díaz-Guerrero, R. (1979). Estudios de psicología del mexicano.
México, D.F.: Editorial Trillas.
Díaz-Loving, R., Rivera, S., Reyes, I., Rocha, T., Reidl, L., Sánchez,
R., Flores, M., Andrade, P., Valdez, J., & García, T. (2008).
Etnopsicologia mexicana: Siguiendo la huella teórica y empírica
de Díaz-Guerrero. México, D.F.: Editorial Trillas.
Dodds, P.S., et al., (2015). Human language reveals a universal
positivity bias. PNAS, 112(8), 2389-2394.
Esteinou, R. (2004). El surgimiento de la familia nuclear en
México. Estudios de Historia Novohispana, 31, 99-136.
Estrada, A. (2009). Naturaleza, cultura e identidad. Reflexiones
desde la tradición oral maya contemporánea. Estudios de
Cultura Maya, XXXIV, 181-20.
Gasparini, L., & Lusting, N. (2011). The rise and fall of income
inequality in Latin America. In J.A. Ocampo & Ros, J. (Eds.) The
Oxford handbook of Latin American economics. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Germani, G. (1965). Política y sociedad en una época de
transición de la sociedad de masas. Buenos Aires: Editorial
Paidos.
Grinde, B. (2009). An evolutionary perspective on the
importance of community relations for quality of life. The
Scientific World Journal, 9, 588-605.
Gonzalbo, P. (1996). Historia de la familia. México: Instituto Mora
y Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
Gonzalbo, P. (1998). Familia y orden colonial. México: El Colegio
de México.
Gonzalbo, P., & Rabell, C. (Eds.) (1996). Familia y vida privada
en la historia de Iberoamérica. México: El Colegio de México y
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
Gudynas, E., & Acosta, A. (2011). El buen vivir o la disolución de
la idea del progreso. In M. Rojas (Ed.) La medición del progreso
y del bienestar: propuestas desde América Latina. Mexico City:
Foro Consultivo Científico y Tecnológico.
Gui, B. (2005). From transactions to encounters: the joint
generation of relational goods and conventional values. In B.
Gui & Sudgen, R. (Eds.) Economics and social interactions.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gui, B., & Stanca, L. (2010). Happiness and relational goods:
well-being and interpersonal relations in the economic sphere.
International Review of Economics, 57, 105-118.
Holler, J. (2014). Of sadness and joy in colonial Mexico. In
Villa-Flores, J., & Lipsett-Rivera, S. (Eds.) Emotions and daily life
in colonial Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico
Press.
Jaitman, L. (2017). The costs of crime and violence: New
evidence and insights in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Washington D.C.: Inter-American Development Bank.
Kasser, T. (2002). The High Price of Materialism. Cambridge:
MIT Press.
Katz, R. (2009). Intergenerational family relations and
subjective well-being in old age: A cross-national study.
European Journal of Ageing, 6, 79-90.
Larraín, J. (1994). La identidad latinoamericana. Teoría e
historia. Estudios Públicos, 55, 31-64.
Las Casas, B. (1945). Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las
Indias. México: Secretaría de Educación Pública.
Las Casas, B. (1951). Historia de las Indias, t. 2. México D.F.:
Fondo de Cultura Económica.
Las Casas, B. (1967). Apologética historia sumaria, t. I. México:
UNAM.
Layard, R., Clark, A.E., Cornaglia, F., Powdthavee, N., & Vernoit,
J. (2013) What predicts a successful life? a life-course model of
well-being. IZA Discussion Paper Series No. 7682.
León-Portilla, M. (2014). Visión de los vencidos. Relaciones
indígenas de la conquista. México: UNAM. (1959).
Leyva, G., Bustos, A. & Romo, A.M. (2016). Life Satisfaction and
happiness in Mexico: Correlates and redundancies. In M. Rojas
(Ed.) Handbook of happiness research in Latin America.
Springer.
Martínez Cruz, J. & Castillo Flores, H. (2016). “Like the
zompopito”: Social relationships in happiness among rural and
indigenous women in Nicaragua. In M. Rojas (Ed.) Handbook
of happiness research in Latin America. Springer.
Mochón Morcillo, F. & de Juan Díaz, R. (2016). Happiness and
social capital: Evidence from Latin American countries. In M.
Rojas (Ed.) Handbook of happiness research in Latin America.
Springer.
Morandé, P. (1990). Latinoamericanos: Hijos de un diálogo
ritual. Creces, 11 (11-12), 8-16.
Morandé, P. (1991). La síntesis cultural hispánica indígena.
Teología y Vida, 32 (1-2), 43-45.
Nguyen, A.W., Chatters, L., Taylor, R. & Mouzon, D. (2016).
Social support from family and friends and subjective
well-being of older African Americans. Journal of Happiness
Studies, 17, 959-979.
Noble, T., & McGrath, H. (2012). Wellbeing and resilience in
young people and the role of positive relationships. In S.
Roffey (Ed.) Positive relationships: Evidence based practice
across the world. Springer.
Noguera, A.P., & Pineda, J.A. (2011). Medición del progreso
de la sociedad. de las cuentas a los cuentos ambientales:
propuesta de otra manera de pensar-nos en clave de
Comunidad Abyayalense en expansión vital. In M. Rojas (Ed.)
La medición del progreso y del bienestar: Propuestas desde
América Latina. Mexico City: Foro Consultivo Científico y
Tecnológico.
O’Brien, K., & Mosco, J. (2012). Positive parent-child relation-
ships. In S. Roffey (Ed.) Positive relationships: Evidence based
practice across the world. Springer.
O’Donnell, G. (1999). Polyarchies and the (un)rule of law in
Latin America: A partial conclusion. In Mendez, J.E., O’Donnell,
G., & Pinheiro, P.S. (Eds.) The (un)rule of law and the under-
privileged in Latin America. Notre Dame: Notre Dame
University Press, 303-337.
Ortiz Hernández, L., Ayala, C.I., & Pérez-Salgado, D. (2018).
Posición socioeconómica, discriminación y color de piel en
México. Perfiles Latinoamericanos, 26(51), 215-239.
Powdthavee, N. (2008). Putting a price tag on friends,
relatives, and neighbours: Using surveys of life satisfaction to
value social relationships. The Journal of Socio-Economics,
37(4), 1459-1480.
Puchet, M., Rojas, M., Salazar, R., Valdés, F., & Valenti, G. (Eds.)
(2012). América latina en los albores del siglo XXI: Política,
sociedad y economía. México: Facultad Latinoamericana de
Ciencias Sociales.
Reddy, W. (2001). The navigation of feeling: A framework for
the history of emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press.
Rivera, S. (2000). Dance of the people: The Chuchumbé. In
Boyer, R., & Spurling, G. (Eds.) Colonial lives: Documents on
Latin American history, 1550-1850. Oxford: Oxford University
Press.
Rojas, M. (2006). Life satisfaction and satisfaction in domains
of life: Is it a simple relationship? Journal of Happiness Studies,
7(4), 467-497.
Rojas, M. (2012a). El bienestar subjetivo en América Latina. In
Puchet, M., Rojas, M., Salazar, E., Valdés, F. & Valenti, G. (Eds.)
América latina en los albores del siglo XXI: Política, sociedad y
economía. México: Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias
Sociales.
Rojas, M. (2012b). Quality-of-life research in Latin America. In
Land, K. (Ed.) Handbook of social indicators and quality-of-life
research. Springer.
Rojas, M. (2012c). Happiness in Mexico: The importance of
human relations. In Selin, A. & Davey, G. (Eds.) Happiness
across cultures: Views of happiness and quality of life in
non-western cultures. Springer.
Rojas, M. (2013). Estatus económico y situación afectiva en
América Latina. Estudos Contemporâneos da Subjetividade
(Contemporary Studies on Subjectivity), 3(2), 202-218.
Rojas, M., & García, J. J. (2017). Well-being in Latin America. In
Estes, R. & Sirgy, J. (Es.) The Pursuit of Human Well-Being.
Springer.
Rojas, M., & Guardiola, J. (2017). Hunger and the experience of
being well: Absolute and relative concerns. World Development,
96, 78-86.
Rosenweim, B. (2002). Emotional communities in the early
middle ages. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Stearns, P., & Stearns, C. (1985). Emotionology: Clarifying the
history of emotions and emotional standards. The American
Historical Review, 90 (4), 813-836.
Velásquez, L. (2016). The importance of relational goods for
happiness: Evidence from Manizales, Colombia. In Rojas, M.
(Ed.) Handbook of happiness research in Latin America.
Springer.
Villa-Flores, J., & Lipsett-Rivera, S. (Eds.) (2014). Emotions and
daily life in colonial Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New
Mexico Press.
World Bank (2011). Crime and violence in Central America:
A development challenge. Washington D.C.: The World Bank.
Yamamoto, J. (2016). The social psychology of Latin American
happiness. In Rojas, M. (Ed.) Handbook of happiness research
in Latin America. Springer.
Zea, L. (1985). El problema de la identidad latinoamericana.
México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.
Zea, L. (1971). La esencia de lo americano. Buenos Aires:
Pleamar.
World Happiness Report 2018
... An interesting finding of Mexican and Costa Rican studies is the detection of relatively high levels of well-being, apparently created by close extended family networks which are an essential part of a Latin American lifestyle, and which appear to compensate for relatively low incomes, pervasive poverty, inequality, and crime and violence. In other words, income is significantly relevant to well-being as are many other factors, but a closely-knit, active, family life is probably more important (Rojas, 2018a;Rojas & Elizondo-Lara, 2012). This relative Latin American well-being extends to young people who are happier than their counterparts in other regions of the world (Marquez & Long, 2021). ...
... However, Latin American well-being is not immune to prevailing social and economic problems. According to an econometric analysis by Rojas (2018a) Following this introduction, the Materials and Methods section looks at data sets and analytical approaches, while the Results section probes descriptively and quantitatively Mexican survey data to test postulations evidenced in recent regional research, before introducing a novel approach which includes partial correlations. The Discussion section contextualizes the quantitative findings within the well-being literature, which are summarized in the Conclusions. ...
... There is some truth in the notion that Economic Theory is biased towards the study of individual well-being rather than that of the community, due to its fixation with private property and individual utility, which means that the study of social capital is relatively recent, with important measurement problems (Eckersley, 2013, Hooghe & Vanhoutte, 2011. Due to the multifaceted nature of well-being and happiness, many researchers build dimensions or domains of indicators, representing the diversity of influences, including income, health, education, etc. (Rojas, 2006;Rojas, 2018a). Mexican and Latin Americans reveal some interesting peculiarities in the literature, principally, that they are happier than they should be, considering modest incomes and high crime rates and insecurity, apparently more than countered by strong extended family relationships which confer satisfaction (Rojas, 2018a;Rojas & Elizondo-Lara, 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
El artículo hace una reseña de la literatura del bienestar y mide cómo los cuestionarios con preguntas subjetivas pueden mejorar nuestra comprensión del bienestar en México. El cuestionario utiliza datos a nivel estatal principalmente de dos cuestionarios de enfoque subjetivo, Módulo de Bienestar Autorreportado (BIARE) y Encuesta Nacional de Victimización y Percepción sobre Seguridad Pública (ENVIPE), ambos aplicados en 2014. El estudio emplea un análisis descriptivo y econométrico de indicadores inspirado tanto en la teoría como en investigaciones mexicanas previas. El análisis confirma que el bienestar subjetivo correlaciona con y complementa los datos objetivos y que la felicidad crece con un aumento en los ingresos, como lo sugiere la teoría. Además, se encontró que los mexicanos son relativamente felices, considerando los bajos ingresos y los altos niveles de inseguridad en el país. Se sugiere que el bienestar es un fenómeno complejo y multidimensional que se puede explorar utilizando la regresión múltiple exploratoria y modelos de correlación parcial que yuxtaponen indicadores subjetivos y objetivos.
... Chile ranks in the highest quartile of the World Happiness Index, being the happiest country in the region. One of the explanations for this relatively high level of happiness is family support (Dirección de Estudios Sociales 2015; Rojas, 2018). In collectivistic cultures, happiness is grounded on social ties such as family, friends, and romantic relationships. ...
... This Latin American country has been characterized as collectivistic (Hofstede et al., 2010;Loewe, Bagherzadeh, Araya-Castillo, Thieme & Batista-Foguet, 2014) . 1 It ranks in the highest position of the World Happiness Index among Latin American countries, which is the "happiest" region in the world. Scholars have explained the performance of Chile in this rank by the role of family (Rojas, 2018), which is the prototypical predictors of happiness in any collectivistic culture. It is consistent with national surveys that show the relevance of family ties explaining the level of happiness in Chile (Dirección de Estudios Sociales 2015). ...
Article
Full-text available
After two decades of research, the evidence in cross-cultural studies has shown that the lay theories of happiness are not universal. Significant variations have been found in the beliefs about the sources of happiness between countries. However, heterogeneities within countries have been overlooked. In this article, I documented a folk theory of happiness beliefs for the Chilean case. Using factorial surveys, I estimated (a) causal beliefs of happiness, (b) the contingency of the belief about income upon other domains, and (c) the heterogeneity of these beliefs when considering respondents’ experience on these dimensions. Health and income are the most prominent determinants of happiness in the belief system of Chileans. For the first time, income is reported as a prominent source of happiness from the perspective of laypeople. Nevertheless, this belief is contingent upon several of the other sources of happiness. In addition, the experience of long-exposure life circumstances explains the heterogeneity of beliefs about lifestyle and partner relationships. Overall, these findings compel us to re-evaluate other once-believed collectivistic countries that have gone through structural changes like Chile. Finally, the potentialities of using factorial surveys for cultural analysis are highlighted.
Article
Full-text available
The main goal of this research is to determine the link between happiness and individual subjective life expectancy (SLE) among Chilean senior citizens. We use data from the 2015 edition of the Chilean Social Protection Survey. Our sample consists of 1298 seniors: 700 aged 65–74, 421 aged 75–84, and 177 aged 85 and older. We provide a novel methodological approach that allows us to measure the relative contribution of happiness to SLE, by combining the Shapley–Owen–Shorrocks decomposition with contrasts of marginal linear predictions of the equality of the means by groups. Results reveal that happiness is the most important determinant of seniors’ SLE, and the effect is stronger the older the people are. Addressing varying levels of happiness is important because both happiness and unhappiness have a significant impact. In an ageing population, social agents should consider that these variables (happiness and SLE) are related to engagement in healthy lifestyles. If prevention programs integrated this interaction, welfare systems could save scarce resources. Therefore, governments should foster happiness to support active ageing.
Article
Full-text available
Este artículo busca exponer sistemáticamente la estrecha relación entre los vínculos familiares y la felicidad. El argumento se desarrolla en cuatro secciones. Primero, se busca sistematizar la literatura sobre la relación entre los vínculos sociales (en general) y la felicidad, esbozando un modelo teórico a partir de dicha evidencia. Posteriormente, se explora en detalle el grado de felicidad asociado a dos tipos de vínculos familiares centrales: las relaciones de pareja (segunda sección) y la paternidad (tercera sección). Finalmente, se desarrolla una síntesis sobre la relación entre los vínculos familiares y la felicidad, analizando brevemente algunas condiciones familiares que en América Latina tienden a favorecer el desarrollo del bienestar subjetivo.
Article
Full-text available
Este artículo presenta algunas reflexiones en torno a la problemática derivada de la construcción y el uso de los conceptos de naturaleza y cultura para su análisis antropológico, así como sus posibilidades de aplicación al estudio de las culturas mayas. Plantea que los pueblos mayas establecen distintas relaciones entre estos dominios, así como entre la humanidad y la animalidad. Frente a la perspectiva occidental, que establece rígidas fronteras y diferencias insalvables, la visión maya propone continuidades, reversibilidades e interconexiones, en un universo en el que la materialidad y el espacio ofrecen múltiples posibilidades de tránsito para la vida y el ser.
Book
In The Navigation of Feeling: A Framework for the History of Emotions, William M. Reddy offers a theory of emotions which both critiques and expands upon recent research in the fields of anthropology and psychology. Exploring the links between emotion and cognition, between culture and emotional expression, Reddy applies this theory of emotions to the processes of history. He demonstrates how emotions change over time, how emotions have a very important impact on the course of events, and how different social orders either facilitate or constrain emotional life. In an investigation of Revolutionary France, where sentimentalism in literature and philosophy had promised a new and unprecedented kind of emotional liberty, Reddy's theory of emotions and historical change is successfully put to the test.
Article
The lessening of hunger is central to the development agenda; however, there is little research on how it ends up impacting on people’s experience of being well. Research on this impact is crucial for the design of hunger alleviation programs as well as for the measurement and understanding of hunger. It is also important to understand people’s motivation and reaction to interventions. This paper studies the impact of hunger on four different experiences of being well: evaluative, positive affects, negative affects, and sensory. The paper distinguishes between absolute and relative effects of hunger on people’s well-being. Information from the Gallup World Poll 2006 for 88 countries in the world is used to quantitatively study the well-being relevance of hunger. It is found that hunger is highly detrimental to people’s well-being, which provides a justification for making substantial efforts to alleviate it. In addition, relative effects are important in the evaluative and negative-affect experiences; which means that hunger alleviation programs do not only impact positively on the well-being of those benefiting from the programs but also negatively on the well-being of those who—out of different reasons—are left behind. Thus, counting success on the number of people who are getting out of hunger does not provide the complete well-being picture, because those who are left behind may also be negatively affected by these programs. In consequence, in order to enhance their well-being impact it is important for hunger alleviation programs to be broadly inclusive, aiming not to leave anybody behind.
Chapter
The chapter investigates the correlates of life satisfaction and happiness in México, in order to know the degree of redundancy between them as well as their key correlates. The way the studied correlates behave does not allow a conclusive statement about the degree of redundancy between the variables under study, although it clearly shows that for some specific variables such as economic status or satisfaction with family life, social life and affective life, different behaviours consistent with a greater emotive and smaller cognitive load are displayed by the indicator regarding happiness when compared to the one for life satisfaction.
Chapter
What is happiness for women facing poverty? This article describes the ways in which rural and indigenous women, make senses of their experiences of happiness through their life histories. These narrations give an account of how important are harmonious, participatory and egalitarian social relationships throughout the different spheres of women’s realities to approach their sense of happiness. Building on scholar contributions from action-research, feminist ethnography, reflexive practice and decolonial propositions, we argued that women’s definitions, immersed in their daily and communitarian life, reveal a collective dimension of human well-being usually postponed in mainstream development perspectives.
Chapter
Latin America is one of the happiest regions in the world. However, this high subjective well beingdoes not correspond to the modern prototype of happiness which is based on the belief that richness and autonomy are the basic building blocks of a good life. Latin American countries fall in the middle income group with not a single nation in the high income economies. It is a region low on individualism and high on collectivism. Therefore, the understanding of Latin American happiness is not just a cross-cultural curiosity, it is an important case study for Happiness Science in order to understand the basic building blocks of a happy culture. This chapter studies the cultural roots of Latin American happiness and challenge the widespread believe that modernization and individuality are fundamental drivers of happiness.