Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2011

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Kim, Jae-On

First Committee Member

Noonan, Mary C.

Second Committee Member

Campbell, Mary E.

Third Committee Member

Hitlin, Steven

Fourth Committee Member

Rice, Tom W.


The main purpose of this dissertation is to establish happiness as a sociological research topic and examine the effects of economic inequality and marriage on happiness in cross-national contexts. Following a critical review on previous happiness studies, two cross-national studies and one longitudinal study focusing on Korean data are conducted for this purpose. In the first study, I examine the effects of objective and subjective inequality on happiness across 26 countries. Data from the International Social Survey Program 1999 and the World Values Surveys 1994-1999 are used for analyses. The results indicate that subjective inequality, not objective inequality, has a strong negative influence on happiness. In the second study, I examine the relationship between marriage and happiness across 72 countries, focusing on a comparison of marrieds, cohabitors, and never-married singles. Data from the World Value Surveys 1999-2008 are used for analyses. The results indicate that the relationship between marriage and happiness varies across nations. In the majority of countries, marriage is positively associated with happiness, but there are many countries where the relationship is non-existent or negative. Cohabitors are happier than never-married singles, but only in countries where marrieds are also happier than the never-married singles. Multi-level analyses show that the positive relationship between marriage and happiness is stronger in countries characterized by economic development and secular-rational culture. In the third study, I examine the continuation of the marriage effect on life satisfaction in Korea. Longitudinal data from the Korean Labor and Income Panel Study 1998-2008 are used for analyses. The results indicate that the selection effect (i.e., People with greater life satisfaction are more likely to get married.) exists in general but is moderated by the age effect. The increase of life satisfaction caused by marriage is maintained at least for 6 years or more. Thus, the positive relationship between marriage and life satisfaction in Korea is explained by both of the selection effect and the causal effect of marriage.


Cross-National, Happiness, Inequality, Life Satisfaction, Marriage


ix, 148 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 132-144).


Copyright 2011 Sanghag Kim

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Sociology Commons