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Why is greater income inequality associated with lower life satisfaction and poorer health? Evidence from the European Quality of Life Survey, 2012

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Daniel Nettle



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


© 2022 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Greater income inequality is associated with lower average wellbeing. There are multiple possible explanations for this pattern. We use data from the European Quality of Life Survey 2012 (27,571 respondents from 28 countries) to evaluate the contributions of different causal pathways to associations between national income inequality and wellbeing. In unadjusted analyses, greater income inequality was associated with lower life satisfaction and poorer self-rated health. For life satisfaction, 43% of the association was attributable to individual income effects, and 41% to worse public services (especially access to healthcare). The association between income inequality and self-rated health was mainly (68%) due to individual income effects. For life satisfaction but not self-rated health, we found some evidence of costs of inequality that fall on those with high incomes. We conclude that the negative associations between income inequality and wellbeing across European countries are substantially, but not entirely, due to individual income effects.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Nettle D, Dickins TE

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social Science Journal

Year: 2022

Pages: Epub ahead of print

Online publication date: 09/09/2022

Acceptance date: 02/08/2022

Date deposited: 04/10/2022

ISSN (print): 0362-3319

ISSN (electronic): 1873-5355

Publisher: Taylor and Francis Ltd


DOI: 10.1080/03623319.2022.2117888


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