Livability and Children's Happiness: Challenges for Public Policies

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 12 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Sergiu BALTATESCU, Department of Sociology and Social Work, University of Oradea, Oradea, Romania
Numerous studies show there is a strong correlation between the wealth of nations and happiness of their adult members. This is mediated by societal factors associated with national wealth which contribute to subjective well-being (which Veenhoven (1993) name ‘livability’). However, a recent study in 15 countries (Children’s World (www.isciweb.org), financed by Jacobs foundation, n> 35.000, age 8-13) fails to find a correlation at national level between GDP and subjective well-being of children. Moreover, in high-income countries (South Korea, United Kingdom) children are the least satisfied with school and also with life as a whole, while in medium-income countries (Columbia, Turkey, Romania) score very high in school and life satisfaction. At a first glance, these results seem to challenge the conventional wisdom that investments in education and improved educational policies contribute to a better education and, in the end, to a higher well-being. However, at a closer look, this may confirm the dual nature of the concept of livability: not only the offerings of society matters for individual happiness, but also its requests (Veenhoven, 2000). This would explain why in countries with highly demanding school systems (South Korea, UK), children are under strong competitive pressure, which lowers their levels of satisfaction with school and their subjective well-being. This interpretation may urge for a change in a paradigm of childhood studies advocated by Ben-Arieh (2008): children should be valued for what they are now (well-being) they are and not only for what they promise to be in their adult lives (well-becoming). Ben-Arieh also calls for a switch to new child-centered domains in quality of life research. Starting with these premises, we will discuss how social indicators research should adapt in order to be able to inform and inspire changes in educational policies and also in happiness policy regarding children.