English title: Giving a Fish or Teaching to Fish? Forms of State Intervention and Subjective Well-Being

Author(s): Alexander Jakubow -

Language: English

Type: Conference paper/poster

Year: 2014


The literature on the political determinants of well-being finds a strong, positive relationship between empirical measures of Esping-Andersen’s concept of decommodification and subjective reports of life satisfaction. While important, the concept of decommodification concerns itself primarily with passive, income-based supports designed to `emancipate' individuals from their dependence on the market. This is an important aspect of state intervention, but the concept entirely ignores how state intervention can also empower individuals to improve how they interact with the market through key investments in human capital formation. This alternative pathway—‘intervention-as-empowerment'—is also argued to exert a positive influence on individual well-being. Moreover, this second pathway is argued to exert a stronger positive influence on well-being than the `intervention-as-emancipation' pathway associated with decommodification. Because of the decreasing marginal utility of income and our psychological predisposition to adapt to changes in our material environment, passive income supports designed to emancipate individuals from their dependency on the market will exert a weaker, perhaps even fleeting, effect on life satisfaction. Public expenditures on active- vs. passive- labor market policies proxy the differences between these two forms of state intervention into the market. Both hypotheses are tested against data from three rounds of the European Social Survey (2002-2007). The results not only provide confirmatory evidence of an alternative pathway linking state intervention and levels of life satisfaction, but intervention-as-empowerment exerts a stronger positive influence on life satisfaction than the conventional, intervention-as-emancipation pathway represented by Esping-Andersen’s concept of decommodification.

Conference name: 21st International Conference of Europeanists

Location: Washington DC

Start date: Mar 14, 2014

Type: Paper

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