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The association between the material well-being and the subjective well-being of children in 35 countries

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JournalChild Indicators Research
DateSubmitted - 30 Nov 2020
DateAccepted/In press - 2 Sep 2021
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 4 Oct 2021
Early online date4/10/21
Original languageEnglish


It is well established that child poverty has a profound, costly, and long-term impact on physical and mental health, educational attainment, and outcomes in adulthood. However, to date, while among adults a correlation between income and subjective well-being has been found, findings of about such an association the evidence that it is associated with subjective well-being induring childhood is are mixed. This may be because the indicators available for both child poverty and subjective well-being have been limited – mainly to household incomes reported by adults and single measures of life satisfaction. This article explores the opportunities presented by the data collected in the third wave of Children’s Worlds, the school-based survey of children in 35 countries. The study employed a wider range of measures of material well-being, as well as subjective well-being, in terms of living standards in a larger range of countries. We have found that at both country comparative level, and within the country level, there is an association between material deprivation and some measures of subjective well-being, but the strength of the association varied between the country level and individual-level analyses, and across countries at the individual-level. At the macro-country level, the Family Affluence Scale was not significantly associated with most subjective well-being measures, while the deprivation scale, and a multi-dimensional measure that was developed in this paper, showed high correlations with overall life satisfaction and feelings of sadness. At the individual-level, the correlations were generally weak and varied between countries. We conclude with a discussion regarding possible explanations for these findings and their possible implications.

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