Happiness, Social Cohesion and Income Inequalities in Britain and Japan

Dimitris Ballas, Danny Dorling, Tomoki Nakaya, Helena Tunstall, Kazumasa Hanaoka and Tomoya Hanibuchi



This paper presents on-going research exploring social cohesion and happiness in Japan and Britain, building on recently completed work comparing income inequalities in the two countries. A key aim of this project is to build on recent work entitled ‘The Spirit Level’ by Professors Pickett and Wilkinson suggesting that Japan is one of the most harmonious of affluent countries in the world, whereas Britain one of the most unequal and hence disharmonious. The paper revisits the ‘Spirit Level’ evidence according to which Japan is a more equitable and thus socially cohesive society than is any other industrialised country, but especially in contrast with a country such as Britain. It presents a review of relevant literature and a discussion of the key arguments in relation to the links between income inequality, social cohesion and happiness. It also presents a comparison of income inequality measures in Britain and Japan over the past 20 years, followed by comparisons of subjective happiness and well-being measures and their determinants in the two countries. Finally, the paper spells out a research agenda regarding the next steps and on ways of adding a geographical dimension to the study of subjective happiness and well-being in Britain and Japan.

This paper is an early version of a chapter forthcoming in Tachibanaki, T. ed (2016) Advances in Happiness Research: A Comparative Perspective, Springer (ISBN-10: 4431557520; ISBN-13: 978-4431557524). The DOI of the chapter is: DOI 10.1007/978-4-431-55753-1_8.

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