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Title: Subjective well-being and the measurement of poverty
Author: Kelly, Grace
Awarding Body: Queen's University Belfast
Current Institution: Queen's University Belfast
Date of Award: 2014
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Within the United Kingdom, assessments of societal progress have traditionally been made according to objective measures such as Gross Domestic Product. However, measures of subjective human conditions, such as 'quality of life', 'happiness' or 'well-being' are now being used more widely. This is reflective of a concern about the limitations of economic measures and the growing desire for complementary subjective measures to inform policy making. This thesis is concerned with the level of enthusiasm and speed at which these alternative subjective measures have being embraced and the consequences this poses for objective measures of poverty based on low income and material deprivation. This is because reflective measures like life satisfaction and overall well -being have been shown to be vulnerable to the phenomenon of adaptation and social comparisons, where people rate their situation with that of similar others and relative to what they have come to expect. This study uses a mixed methods approach to investigate how poverty indicators are affected by such processes. It does so through the lens of Walter G. Runciman's (1966) concept of relative deprivation. Results reveal that people often make comparisons with similar others, either in a lateral or downward manner. As a result, expectations are lowered with aspirations and preferences being adapted to people's material and financial constraints. The study concludes that the 'enforced lack' (Mack and Lansley, 1985) measure is the most effective in identifying individuals at risk of material deprivation. Meanwhile, levels of overall life satisfaction are argued to be particularly vulnerable to adaptation processes. This is because people rate their satisfaction relative to the quality of their personal relationships, rather than using a more reflective view of life overall.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available