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Well-Being, Social Capital and Public Policy: What's New?* 


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    This article was written while I was Killam Visiting Scholar, Institute for Advanced Policy Research, University of Calgary. I am especially grateful for the continued research collaboration of Haifang Huang, for hospitality and support from the University of Calgary and the Killam Foundation, for research support from the SSHRCC, and for data from the Statistics Canada RDC at UBC. In revising the article, I am also grateful for helpful advice and suggestions from Curtis Eaton, Michael Jacobs, Daniel Kahneman, Jason Riis and an anonymous referee.


This article summarises recent empirical research on the determinants of subjective well-being. Results from national and international samples suggest that measures of social capital, including especially the corollary measures of specific and general trust, have substantial effects on well-being beyond those flowing through economic channels. Cross-national samples (supported by parallel analysis of suicide data) show large well-being effects from the quality of government. Finally, using well-being data to estimate the income-equivalents non-financial aspects of the workplace produces numbers so large as to suggest the existence of unexploited opportunities to improve both employee satisfaction and enterprise efficiency.