Satisfied and dissatisfied South Africans: results from the General Household Survey in international comparison

Møller, V. (2007) Satisfied and dissatisfied South Africans: results from the General Household Survey in international comparison. Social Indicators Research, 81 (2). pp. 389-415. ISSN 0303-8300



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Who are the satisfied South Africans 10 years into democracy? How do material factors contribute to their life satisfaction? These are the questions addressed in this paper. Earlier South African research has consistently found a close positive relationship between life satisfaction and material standards of living in the apartheid and post-apartheid era. Recently, a new source of information has become available to shed further light on the association between material and subjective well-being. In 2002, Statistics South Africa, the country’s official source of statistical information, agreed to ask South Africans participating in the General Household Survey whether they were satisfied or dissatisfied with life. The 2002 General Household Survey (n26’000) used a measure developed for the Euromodule that allows for international comparison. The wide-ranging information contained in South Africa’s official household survey offers a unique opportunity to explore what makes for satisfied and dissatisfied South Africans in relation to their material living standards. Results indicate that the improved living standards afforded to many black South Africans under democracy are associated with increases in life satisfaction. Furthermore, habituation does not appear to have diluted the positive relationship between living standards and well-being. However, political factors continue to play an important role in shaping subjective well-being. In conclusion, it is argued that material gains might also have restored the pride and dignity denied to black South Africans in the past.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:The original publication is available at
Uncontrolled Keywords:life satisfaction; material living standards; well-being; South Africa
Subjects:Y Unknown > Subjects to be assigned
Divisions:Research Institutes and Units > Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER)
ID Code:675
Deposited On:29 May 2007
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:18
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