Well-being and inequality in transition : the case of Hungary
The thesis provides a systematic analysis of social inequalities in Hungary during economic transition, using nationally representative samples from 1992 and 1998. Beyond the traditional economic measure of income inequality it uses a range of measures, including 'objective well-being' (such as employment status, housing quality, social relations) and 'subjective well-being' (such as individuals' self-reported satisfaction). The analysis shows that die highly educated are well-being rich, since they have higher incomes, higher chances of labour market participation, and they are more contented. The Romany ethnic group are well-being poor, with particularly low levels of labour market participation, which cannot be explained entirely by their educational disadvantage. However, in general a 'patchwork inequality' prevails. Inhabitants of the capital prosper better and fewer experience social isolation, but they tend to be more dissatisfied with their neighbourhood. Age plays a varying, but at times major, role. Other things being equal, age has an inverted U-shaped pattern for income and for labour market participation, indicating die relative advantage of middle-aged groups. In contrast, for life satisfaction age has a pronounced U-shaped pattern. The determinants of happiness are largely unaffected even by a major societal landslide. For example unemployment or disability pensioner status is a major source of unhappiness, even after controlling for income, both in 1992 and 1998. Religiosity, measured as church- going, is a positive and stable correlate of happiness. One exception is die self-employed, who may be called major winners of die transition process, as indicated by their growing life satisfaction. The empirical results show that objective well-being does matter over and above income, in the sense that its specific measures contribute significantly and consistently to life satisfaction ('experienced utility'). This suggests that a minimum level of 'well-being' or that of 'functionings' is not just normatively good, as suggested by Sen's capabilities theory, but also desired by people.