Hello! Andrew Ruder of Norther Illinois University ecently wrote this excellent white paper. I find it quite useful as it has analysis, action items and ideas for local and nationwide well-being. Enjoy! Laura Musikanski - Executive Director
Pursuing Citizen Happiness:
Towards a Well-Being Oriented American Public Service
By: Aaron Ruder, firstname.lastname@example.org
Northern Illinois University
Northern Illinois University
The purpose of this paper is to determine what governments can do to increase citizen well-being. A major purpose of government is increasing citizen well-being. Since the late twentieth century, developed nations have shifted from materialist to post-materialist values. People are now willing to sacrifice material gain for experiences and personal development. American governments are currently over dependent on economic indicators to measure success. Well-being indicators and policy formulated to directly increase citizen well-being can better meet the needs of post-materialist citizens in developed nations.
Factors that increase well-being include a responsive government and bureaucratic structure, civil liberties, high social trust and social capital, intrinsic values and experiences, natural capital, and altruism. Factors decreasing citizen well-being include lack of trust and social capital, long commutes and materialist values.
In order to increase citizen well-being, governments should promote civil liberties, develop trust and social capital, reduce overall hours worked, promote intrinsic values, expand green spaces, provide opportunities for altruism, and reduce commuting time. Specific policies include equal marriage rights for same sex couples, community oriented policing, 20 days guaranteed paid leave, strict advertisement regulation, developing natural resources to provide public services, volunteer opportunities, transit oriented development, and rail system expansion.
Government should also measure well-being based on Bhutan’s nine well-being criteria: time use, living standards, psychological well-being, good governance, community vitality, culture, health, education, ecology.
What can government do to increase citizen well-being?
Why This Question Is Important To Public Administration
A public administration focus on citizen well-being will help government officials better serve citizens and build citizen trust. Well-being measurements can help public administrators form more effective policy to satisfy citizens’ post materialist values, including self-acceptance, relatedness and intimacy, and community feeling and helpfulness (Kasser, 2002).
Inglehart (1999) argues a society’s level of subjective well-being is intimately related to the legitimacy of the government. Inglehart (2000) shows how citizens of developed nations now live in a post materialist world. Since basic human needs are usually met in developed countries, citizens are less concerned with physical goods and services and put a greater emphasis on personal development and human experiences (Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, & Helliwell, 2009). The addition of well-being indicators to formulate public policy is required to meet the changing values of developed nations.
The primary purpose of democratic government is to increase citizen well-being (happiness). Coates (2001) has compiled extensive sources on what Jefferson considered the purpose for government. When Thomas Jefferson spoke to the Maryland Republicans, he stated, “The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government” (http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff0650.htm). When Jefferson spoke to M. van der Kemp, he stated, “The only orthodox object of the institution of government is to secure the greatest degree of happiness possible to the general mass of those associated under it.” Finally, in the Declaration and Protest of Virginia, Jefferson wrote that “The first object of human association [is] the full improvement of their [citizens’] condition” (http://etext.virginia.edu/jefferson/quotations/jeff0650.htm).
It seems to me that achieving citizen happiness requires that government follow the classical liberal principle (which our founding fathers agreed upon) of “the consent of the governed.” The consent of the governed connects well with the New Public Administration (Frederickson, 1980) and the New Public Service (Denhardt and Denhardt, 2007) paradigms that embody democratic administration, civic engagement, citizen participation, and serving all people in order to build citizen trust, a sense of community, and thus citizen well-being. As Dehnhardt and Denhardt write, “government should not be run like a business; it should be run like a democracy” (2007,3).
Definition Of Well-Being
Well-being is measured in both subjective and objective measurements (Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, Helliwell, 2009). Sumner (1996) introduced an essential distinction between objective and subjective terms for well-being. Objective measurements need an objective point of view that is independent of a person’s own subjective values and norms. Subjective definitions of well-being need a reference to the person’s own interests, needs, preferences, or desires.
Subjective well-being (SWB) refers to how individuals evaluate their lives, and includes variables such as life and marital satisfaction, lack of depression and anxiety, and positive emotions (Diener, Suh, and Oishi, 1997). A person's evaluation of their life may be in the form of cognitions and experiences (Diener, Suh, and Oishi, 1997). A person is said to have high SWB if they claim to have high life satisfaction and frequent positive emotions, and only rarely experience negative emotions such as sadness or anger (Diener, Suh, and Oishi, 1997). A person is said to have low SWB if he or she claims dissatisfaction with life, experiences few positive emotions, and frequently feels negative emotions (Diener, Suh, and Oishi, 1997).
It is common for the two definitions to be aligned (Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, Helliwell, 2009). Several objective definitions of well-being include physical health as one component. Health is also likely to play a key role in subjective assessments of health because most individuals prefer to be healthy (Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, Helliwell, 2009).
Factors That Increase SWB
Factors that increase well-being include civil liberties, trust and social capital, intrinsic values, natural capital, and altruism.
Civil Liberties and SWB:
Civil liberties promote citizen well-being. Inglehart (1999) compares Freedom House civil liberties ratings from 1972 to 1997 (excluding 1973, 1975, and 1977) with subjective well-being data from the World Values Survey for 55 countries (See Figure 1). Civil liberty scores ranged from 0 to over 250 and subjective well-being ratings ranged from -30 to 90. Inglehart (1999) found countries with high civil liberties scores consistently had high SWB ratings and countries with low civil liberties scores had low SWB ratings, excluding China. For example, countries like Norway, the United States, Denmark, and the Netherlands all had Freedom House civil liberty scores above 225 and SWB ratings around or above 80, while countries like Moldova, Ukraine and Belarus had Freedom House civil liberty scores below 60 and SWB ratings around or below –20.
Figure 1: Civil Liberty And SWB In 55 Countries
One civil right especially correlated with well-being is gay rights. Tolerance of gender equality, homosexuals, people of other religions and foreigners tend to be strongly correlated with well-being. The most sensitive indicator is tolerance of homosexuals (Inglehart, Foa, Peterson, and Welzel, 2008). Not only does being a tolerant individual increase SWB, living in a tolerant society increases SWB regardless if one is tolerant or not tolerant (Inglehart, Foa, Peterson, and Welzel, 2008). Of People who said homosexuality is never justifiable, 25% said they were very happy. Among those who claim homosexuality is always justifiable, 31% said they were happy (Inglehart, Foa, Peterson, and Welzel, 2008). Even among individuals who believe homosexuality is never justifiable, those in countries more tolerant of homosexuality reported higher levels of SWB than those in countries not tolerant of homosexuals (Inglehart, Foa, Peterson, and Welzel, 2008).
Trust /Social Capital:
Figure 2 compares Freedom House civil liberty ratings with the rate of general trust in 55 nations. Figure 2 shows people in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands have the highest levels of general trust. More than 50% of all individuals surveyed in these four countries reported they believe most people are trustworthy, higher than any of the 55 countries surveyed. I compared SWB ratings from Figure 1 with trust ratings from Figure 2 and found that countries with high levels of general trust in people also have higher levels of SWB. For example people in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and the Netherlands have the highest levels of general trust and the highest levels of SWB ratings.
Figure 2: Civil Liberty And Trust Ratings In 55 Countries
Social capital can be described as social networks that foster steady norms of reciprocity [trust] (Putnam, 1999). Social capital has several benefits and negative consequences. Benefits of social capital include mutual support, cooperation, trust, and institutional effectiveness (Putnam, 1999). Negative consequences include sectarianism, ethnocentrism, and corruption (Putnam, 1999). Nations with high levels of social capital, like Denmark, consistently rank high in the World Values Life Satisfaction surveys and nations with low levels of social capital, like Russia, consistently score low on the World Values Life Satisfaction (SWB) surveys. Hjøllund, Paldam, and Svendsen (2001) compared the social capital levels (membership in voluntary organizations, general trust in people, and trust in institutions) of Denmark, a country with the highest SWB, to Russia, a country with one of the lowest SWB ratings. The authors found Danes had substantially higher social capital than Russians. Table 1 shows the average Russian citizen is a member of 0.41 voluntary organizations while the average Dane is a member of 1.72 voluntary organizations. Almost three times as many Russians than Danes do not join any organizations. The average number of memberships in Russia and Denmark differ by no less than 4.2 times.
Table 1: Voluntary Organizational Memberships
Hjøllund, Paldam, and Svendsen (2001)
Hjøllund, Paldam, and Svendsen (2001) then compared levels of generalized trust between the two countries. The authors asked the following questions to people in Russia and Denmark: “Generally speaking, do you believe that most people can be trusted or you can’t be too careful in dealing with people”. Table 2 shows Danes generally trust people more than Russians by a 2.1 ratio. They found 35 percent of Russians believe they can trust people and 64 percent believe they cannot be too careful in dealing with people. On the other hand, 73.9 percent of Danes believe they can generally trust people, and only 21.3 percent believe they can’t be too careful in dealing with people.
Table 2: General Trust in People
Hjøllund, Paldam, and Svendsen (2001)
Hjøllund, Paldam, and Svendsen (2001) then compared Russians’ and Danes’ trust in institutions (See Table 3). Institutions were separated into the legal and police system and administration and government. The authors found significant differences in the distribution of responses between the two groups. Police are the least trusted institution in Russia while the Danes trust the police more than do the Russians. About 80% of Russians distrust the police while about 4.5% of Danes distrust the police. Similar differences between the Russians and Danes are seen in the trust levels of public administrators and government. About 30 percent of Russians trust public administrators while almost 77 percent of Danes trust public administrators. On average, about 28 percent of Russians generally have trust in institutions while about 84 percent of Danes generally trust institutions.
Table 3: Trust in Institutions
Hjøllund, Paldam, and Svendsen (2001)
Hjøllund, Paldam, and Svendsen (2001) believe Denmark’s older democratic tradition has led to higher social capital than Russia’s new and challenging transition from centralized totalitarian rule to democracy.
I then compared the data from the Hjøllund, Paldam, and Svendsen (2001) study on social capital levels in Denmark and Russia to the World Values Survey Subjective Well-Being scores in Table 4. Denmark had the highest SWB score (4.24) of any country while Russia scored among the bottom ten countries (-1.1). The data show substantially higher levels of SWB for the country with significantly higher levels of social capital and lower levels of subjective well-being for the country with lower levels of social capital.
Table 4: World Values Survey
World Values Survey (2008)
Inglehart (1999) points to cultural aspects that may explain the positive correlation between social capital and subjective well-being. According to Inglehart, it appears economic development (GNP) results in social changes, which Inglehart describes as increased reciprocity between individuals. The increased reciprocity between individuals results in a democratization in institutions that leads to trust between individuals and increased subjective well-being. Inglehart (1999) shows how increased reciprocity between individuals is more important in increasing SWB than is the GDP growth.
Intrinsic Values And Well-Being:
According to Kasser (2002) intrinsically motivated experiences (flow) are the most effective experiences to enhance well-being. Intrinsically motivated experiences (flow) occur when a person does something solely for the sheer joy, interest, and challenge of the activity (Kasser, 2002). Intrinsic experiences (flow) require people to pursue activities for what the activities have to offer and not for any compensation or praise (Kasser, 2002). People often report intrinsic experiences produce a sense of connection and oneness with whatever they are doing (Kasser, 2002). People feel most like themselves during flow experiences (Kasser, 2002). People feel free and fully behind what they are doing during flow (Kasser, 2002).
Intrinsic values are the best values to increase well-being (Kasser, 2002). Intrinsic values are based on actual physiological needs, support human growth and development, and are inherently satisfying to pursue (Kasser, 2002). Intrinsic values include self-acceptance, relatedness and intimacy, and community feeling and helpfulness (Kasser, 2002). People with intrinsic values report greater happiness (Kasser and Ryan, 1993, 1996, 2001), greater psychological health (Sheldon and Kasser, 1995), better interpersonal relationships (Kasser and Ryan, 2001), more contributions to their community (Kasser and Ryan, 1993), and greater concern for ecological issues (Sheldon and Magregor, 2000) than persons having materialistic values.
American governments usually define success by material indicators like economic growth. However, economic indicators are no longer sufficient to fulfill the needs and wants of an ever-growing post materialist citizenry. As Figure 3 shows, the relationship between SWB and economic development is curvilinear (Inglehart, Foa, Peterson, and Welzel, 2008). In early subjective well-being research, it was believed that economic development had no impact on SWB (Inglehart, Foa, Peterson, and Welzel, 2008). Early studies relied heavily on data from the U.S., which long ago made a transition from subsistence-level poverty to middle income status (Inglehart, Foa, Peterson, and Welzel, 2008). Among developed and higher income nations, further gains in income do little to significantly increase well-being (Inglehart, Foa, Peterson, and Welzel, 2008).
Figure 3: Relationship Between Economic Gain, Life-style, and Well-being.
Inglehart, Foa, Peterson, and Welzel (2008)
The United States GNP has risen significantly since the mid twentieth century while the level of well-being has remained virtually constant (Florida, 2008). According to several studies, well-being appears to level off or increase much more slowly when yearly incomes reach about $10,000 per person (Florida, 2008). Other evidence shows well-being does substantially increase with income. However, research suggests it is not that people with more money are happier; happier people may be better earners (Florida, 2008).
Natural Capital And Well Being:
Contact with nature is associated with higher levels of concentration, lower aggression levels, lower stress levels, and high levels of overall well-being (Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, Helliwell, 2009). For example, studies have found subjects perform better on tasks like proofreading when they are exposed to a natural environment as compared to an urban environment (Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, Helliwell, 2009). Exposing patients to nature scenes can actually lead to reduction in the use of painkillers (Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, Helliwell, 2009). Verumi and Costanza (2006) examined natural capital across 171 nations.
“Natural Capital was assessed by calculating the amount of specific types of landcover that each nation had, and then weighting these values by the ecosystem value of the landcover. This measure of natural environmental resources correlated significantly with life satisfaction of countries, even after controlling for other factors including income” (From Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, Helliwell, 2009, 155)
Talbot and Kaplan (1991) showed seniors that had close access to an area where they could enjoy nature reported higher life satisfaction and residential satisfaction.
Altruism And SWB:
Research shows that altruism is associated with positive emotions. A study conducted at the University of Oregon suggests giving to causes promotes well-being (Weiner, 2008). Researchers gave 19 volunteers $100 to spend however they chose through a series of computer transactions (Weiner, 2008). During these transactions, researchers scanned all participants’ brains with an MRI machine (Weiner, 2008,). In one experiment, some participants chose to donate to a worthy cause (Weiner, 2008). Researchers then observed the caudate nucleus and the nucleus accumben (sections of the brain associated with the positive emotions of love and reward, laughter and pleasure respectively) lit up on the MRI scan (Weiner, 2008). Another experiment required participants to involuntarily give to a worthy cause (Weiner, 2008). Researchers observed that even when forced to donate, the caudate nucleus and the nucleus accumben still lit up, although to a lesser degree (Weiner, 2008).
One way to help trigger the positive emotions associated with altruism is the public spirit. Denhardt and Denhardt (2007) claim the public spirit requires citizens to look beyond their own personal interests and focus on the public interest. Citizens must develop long-term perspectives on issues and are required to educate themselves on public affairs. The public spirit fosters a sense of belonging and a moral bond between the citizens and their community.
The public spirit can help remedy American hyper-individualism. Karma Ura (2009) argues the tension between social responsibility and personal rights has led to the virtual exclusion of social responsibility in America’s hyper-individualistic society. Ura (2009) argues America’s lack of values education over the last 50 years produced this psychological hyper-individualism, which militates against altruism, community consciousness, and social responsibility. As a consequence, societal trust, community commitment and altruism have been undermined (Ura, 2009). Similar tension has been reported in British children Ura, 2009). The public spirit could inspire citizens to be engaged and pursue altruistic goals, promoting societal trust and well-being.
Social Problems and Conditions That Reduce Citizen Well Being
The literature also describes how lack of trust and social capital in government, long commutes, and materialist values reduce citizen well-being.
Lack of Trust in Government, Loss of Social Capital and SWB:
Citizen trust is built on the belief that government is acting in response to the public interest and the values of the community (Denhardt and Denhardt, 2007). A lack of trust in social institutions, like government, can substantially corrode a citizens’ well-being (Weiner, 2008). Weiner argues the reason Moldova, a country in central Europe, has low subjective well-being is the substantial lack of Moldovan citizen trust in national government efficacy due to their belief government officials are motivated by personal gain and not the public good. According to Weiner (2008), government officials in Moldova are solely concerned with their own self-interest.
Data analyzed by Bianchi et al (2006) show the high level of hours worked in the pursuit and maintenance of a higher standard of living in America reduces social capital. Time spent with one’s spouse, with friends, for civic pursuits, and leisure time have all been reduced to make more time for working and earning more money. The lack of connection and time with spouses, friends, and civic involvement produces heightened feelings of time strain among America’s working parents. A substantial body of research has established that working excessive hours and working different shifts are associated with marital problems, resulting in a negative impact on overall quality of life (Presser, 2000; Crouter, Bumpass, Head, and McHale, 2001).
Long Commutes and Well-being:
About 100 Million Americans commute to work (Evans & Wener, 2006). The overwhelming majority of people commute by private automobiles (Novaco, Stokols, & Milansesi, 1990). Hagihara, Tarumi, Babazono, Nobutomo, and Morimoto (1998), found that Japanese professional men who commute over 90 minutes per day reported lower job satisfaction than those who commute less, even when controlling for several work and non-work factors. Ahn (2005) found long commutes had the most negative effects on life satisfaction for women in Spain. Stokols and Novako (1981) found commuting in crowded conditions and long commutes were both associated with lower levels of job stability, less tolerance of frustration, poorer health, and higher levels of work absences. Commuting in crowded conditions has been found to lower mood and life satisfaction (Novaco, 1992; Novaco, Kliewer, & Broquet, 1991). Novaco and Collier (1994) have shown commuting stress was higher in those with longer commutes and women suffered more from commuting stress than men. Frey and Stutzer (2004) and Stutzer and Frey (2008) found that people with long commutes reported significantly lower life satisfaction when compared with people with short commutes.
Materialistic Values and Well- Being:
Existing research shows people who are strongly oriented to materialistic values have substantially low levels of subjective well-being (Kasser, 2002). Kasser (2002) shows that when a nation’s level of wealth rises to the point at which citizens’ basic needs for food, shelter, and security are met, further increases in wealth do little to improve their sense of well-being. Therefore, the current hyper-emphasis on materialistic, or economic success, is destructive to well-being (Kasser, 2002). Economic growth is only good for society if it promotes well-being.
Ubiquitous advertisements promote materialistic values which reduce citizen well-being in America (Kasser, 2002). Advertising is important to the economy and has a place in American life. However, governments’ general unwillingness and inability to regulate advertising has produced an entire civilization engulfed in hyper-materialism that reduces well-being (Kasser, 2002.) According to Kasser (2002), advertising targeting children has long term damaging effects on the well-being of children. Marvin Goldberg and Gerald Gorn experimented to determine whether advertisements led children to become more interested in playing with advertised toys than playing with friends (Kasser, 2002). Four and five-year-old children were assigned at random to watch a ten-minute program that contained no toy commercials or two toy commercials (Kasser, 2002). The children were then shown images of two equally attractive boys (Kasser, 2002). One of the boys held the advertised toy and was described as “not so nice” and the other boy was without a toy and was described as a “nice boy” (Kasser, 2002). When the children were asked which boy they would rather play with and whether they would rather play with the toy or their friends in the sandbox, children who had watched the advertisement were likely to select the less socially oriented, less well-being promoting choice (Kasser, 2002). Because excessive advertisements are negatively influencing child growth and development, government has a responsibility to act.
Added regulation on advertisements would likely result in an increase in intrinsic values, a decrease in materialistic values, and a net gain in overall well-being. Kasser (2002) argues social values developed through life lead people to seek and respond to certain experiences in particular ways. Materialistic values reduce intrinsically motivated values that increase well-being (Kasser, 2002). Since advertising bombards virtually every child and adult in the United States, most Americans have higher levels of materialistic values than some other developed countries. The less advertisements people see, the less likely people are to place a value on materialism. Less materialism can result in an increase in intrinsic values, which have been shown to be increase SWB.
What Governments are Doing or Can Do to Promote SWB
Below are ways governments can, are, or should develop opportunities for activities and environments that increase citizen well-being and change the social conditions and problems that reduce citizen well-being. In addition, when governments are not providing opportunities to increase SWB, I will recommend actions or policies the government can adopt to increase citizen SWB.
Based on the theory mentioned in a previous section, Federal, State and local governments should offer homosexuals the same rights and liberties as heterosexuals to enhance well-being. 46 states do not provide equal marriage rights for homosexuals. Offering homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals is among the greatest opportunities for states to increase the well-being of both heterosexual and homosexual citizens.
The states and the U.S. federal government are steadily moving to expand equal rights to same sex couples. The Obama administration extended federal benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees that are available to the spouses of heterosexual federal employees (James, 2009). Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, and Vermont have legalized same sex marriage (Goodnough, 2009).
Developing Trust and Building Social Capital
Community-oriented policing (COP) is a strategy developed to enhance the public’s trust and confidence in the police and make residents feel more secure (Cordner, 2007). COP has proven to be effective in promoting trust in the police because COP emphasizes positive interactions between police officers and citizens (Cordner, 2007). The Arlington County, Virginia police department has effectively implemented community oriented policing to build citizen trust and solve problems in a collaborative matter with citizens (Cordner, 2007)
The Arlington County website states community oriented policing was established to develop a cooperative relationship with citizens and identify broad-based strategies to address crime trends and citizen perceptions of crime and safety. Officers have served as instructors and as on-scene enhancements to school security efforts. Under community oriented policing, officers taught (D.A.R.E.) and Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T), and coordinated a Neighborhood Watch program throughout Arlington County. Community oriented policing resulted in reduction in crime and improved public perception of the police (Arlington County, 2009)
The DeKalb County, Illinois promotes trust in law enforcement through the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Citizen Academy. Since 1996, about 300 people have graduated from the Sheriff’s Citizens Police Academy (DeKalbcounty.org). Sherriff’s Office deputies and other professionals educate citizens on law enforcement procedures to help provide a realistic view of the criminal justice system (DeKalbcounty.org). The Academy teaches citizens about arrest procedures, investigations, domestic violence, juvenile law, telecommunications, traffic stops, the corrections division, D.U.I. enforcement, criminal law, and mock trials (DeKalbcounty.org). The program also allows deputies to receive feedback from citizens.
Reduction In Hours Worked
According to the empirical evidence cited above, governments can increase well- being by creating policies to reduce annual hours worked. Less hours worked means more opportunities to foster social capital and spend time on activities that stimulate flow. For example, in Europe, the coordinated reduction in work and increased free time expands the utility of leisure time and has reinforced the desire in Europe for what Alesina et al. (2005) called vacation en masse, evidenced by the fact that people who work fewer hours report higher levels of well-being in the Eurobarometer surveys (Verbakel and DiPrete, 2008).
Figure 4 shows a comparison of guaranteed paid leave days and paid holidays in 21 OECD nations. All but three nations guarantee at least 20 days of paid leave. Every nation guarantees at least ten days of paid leave with the exception of the United States. The only American guaranteed paid leave is the protection of the Davis-Bacon Act that only covers government contractors and subcontractors (Ray and Schmitt, 2007).
Figure 4: Paid Vacation Days
Ray and Schmidtt (2007)
Another strategy to reduce hours worked is through labor law. Verbakel and DiPrete (2008) show how Dutch labor law provides several protections that substantially reduce average hours worked in the Netherlands. The Dutch Working Hours Act of 1996 was created to promote life balance between work, family, and other responsibilities by making it easier for employees and employers to come to an agreement on working time. The Dutch Working Hours Adjustment Act of 2000 provides workers the right to request an increase or decrease in work hours. This request could not be denied except in cases when employers have a good business reason. The Dutch Equal Treatment of Working Hours Act of 1996 requires employers to treat part-time workers the same as comparable full-time workers with respect to hourly pay, promotion, and other job benefits. The Work and Care Act of 2001 gives Dutch workers the right to numerous types of paid and unpaid leave to care for relatives. Dutch employees work about 80% as many hours as American workers. Each of these laws gives Dutch employees more control over their working hours.
I recommend the U.S. government and/or the state governments establish laws emulating the European Union’s Working Time Directive of 1993. The Working Time Directive establishes a vacation floor of four weeks or 20 days per year for all European Union member countries (Ray and Schmidt, 2007). In the beginning, countries were initially given an implementation period of three years, beginning in 1996, in which nations could provide three weeks of paid annual leave (Ray and Schmidt, 2007). The United States could implement a similar standard.
An alternative to the EU model is the Canadian model. Ray and Schmidtt (2007) offer a thorough explanation of the Canadian paid leave system. The Canadian paid leave system is governed by provincial law except when an employee falls under federal jurisdiction. Table 5 shows that most provinces follow the federal example. However, provinces do make different choices in required job tenure for additional leave and paid holidays. The states could begin setting their own paid leave floors without any federal involvement.
Table 5: Canadian Paid Leave and Paid Holidays
Ray and Schmidtt (2007)
The U.S. could eventually implement a more aggressive policy and adopt guaranteed paid leave policies similar to that of Denmark, the nation with the highest level of subjective well-being. Danish law guarantees all workers 30 days of annual paid leave per year worked. Days are awarded at 2.5 days per month worked between May 2 and April 30. Under the usual 5-day workweek, this translates to 25 workdays of paid leave per year plus, as Table 5 shows, nine paid holidays. The empirical evidence cited earlier in this paper suggests that this free time likely contributes to the Danes high levels of SWB and could likely translate into higher American well-being if implemented in America.
Promoting Intrinsic Values
Advertisement Regulation by Government:
Kasser (2002) argues government should create advertisement free zones to promote post-materialist values. Schools, roadways, and public places including subways and buses should be void of advertisements (Kasser, 2002). Advertisement free zones will reduce exposure to stimuli that encourages materialistic values, creating an environment conducive to intrinsic values.
Some countries have already taken steps to limit advertising. Greece has banned advertising toys to children between 7:00 A.M. and 10:00 P.M. (Kasser, 2002). Advertising to children under the age of twelve is banned in Sweden and Norway (Kasser, 2002). Some European advertisement agencies in Sweden have already declared strict advertisement regulation for children is good for child well-being (Ruskin, 1999).
Kasser (2002) argues governments might even reconsider advertisements as pollution because they are corrosive to national well-being and detrimental to mental health. For example, air, water, and noise pollution are considered problematic when people have no choice but to drink filthy water, breathe dirty air, or hear deafening noise, to the detriment of their health (Kasser, 2002). The same could be said of environments offering no choice to citizens but to be exposed to advertisements. I could not find any local, state, or national governments in the U.S. that have identified advertising as pollution. However, I believe U.S. governments should define advertisements as pollution as suggested by Kasser in order to enhance citizen well-being.
Development of Parks and Green Spaces
In an attempt to build natural capital and positively affect citizen well-being, local governments could design building permits to include green space in urban designs (Diener, Lucas, Schimmack, Helliwell, 2009). Local governments are currently including green space in new construction. For example, DeKalb County, Illinois included walkways flanked by trees and grass in their recent Community Outreach Building development. The DeKalb County, Illinois Forest Preserve is purchasing farmland around the county and restoring it to the natural pre-settlement tall grass prairie terrain.
Forest preserves across the country need to promote natural service capabilities of green spaces. Natural services are benefits provided by nature with little or no need for human labor (Suzuki and Taylor, 2009). Examples include air and water filtration from natural landscapes like prairie and forest. Natural services are efficient, effective, and provide green space that is conducive to well-being. One example of public servants using natural services comes from New York City. In 1997, New York City officials began buying land around watersheds to protect forest and soil organisms to grow and filter municipal water supplies (Suzuki and Taylor, 2009). Examples like this are rare. Forest preserve officials need to begin advocating for conservation and restoration projects not only for beauty, but for the natural services that contribute to human well-being.
Providing Opportunities for Altruism
DeKalb County, Illinois Forest Preserve provides volunteer opportunities that promote altruism and well-being. DeKalb County, Illinois provides volunteer opportunities for river clean-up, tall grass prairie management, prairie seed collection, tree planting, litter clean-up, and land stewardship programs. County Forest preserve employees claim volunteers report a greater sense of well-being from their volunteer experience and appear to be happier during volunteer activities.
The United We Serve program is a good example of recent action by the federal government that provides opportunities for altruism. The “United We Serve” website (serve.gov) states the program is a national service initiative developed to handle growing social problems resulting from the economic downturn of October 2008. The initiative emphasizes promoting more volunteers in existing organizations and encouraging Americans to develop their own altruistic projects. Interested citizens can go to the United We Serve website to find local volunteer opportunities, information on how to create their own altruistic project and network with people also interested in altruistic activity.
In DeKalb Illinois, the City Council can continue funding human services. The DeKalb City council is now questioning continued funding for human services. Programs range from a meals on wheels programs to housing and counseling for domestic and sexual assault victims. The City Council is considering rerouting about 250,000 dollars from social services to develop a pedestrian pass (Northern Star, 2009). Although a pedestrian pass would promote more satisfaction with transportation options, funding social services would generate well-being opportunities for those in need and those serving people in need. DeKalb should choose investing in social services over a pedestrian pass for a higher net level in the city’s well-being. According to the theory, participating in these or similar activities should stimulate brain activity associated with love and joy.
Local and federal government officials should help develop a national public spirit to reduce hyper individualism, increase trust and increase altruistic activity. To promote the public spirit, the Federal government can produce educational videos about the public spirit and its benefits to be posted on government websites and video sharing websites like YouTube. Local governments can hold informational workshops on the public spirit. For example DeKalb County Illinois, could set up a lecture from NIU Public Administration Professors on the public spirit.
Reducing Commute Times
Transit Oriented Development (TOD):
Governments are creating transit-oriented developments that reduce commute times and increase satisfaction with transportation options. The Portland Oregon regional government, called Metro (Ozawa, 2004), developed a transit-oriented development program with a 3$ million grant from the Federal Transit Administration. Metro estimates transit ridership is about 10 times greater in transit oriented developments when compared to traditional suburban developments (Ozawa, 2004) and that the cost per a new rider is well under $1 dollar— below the cost of building new light rail and other transit projects in the Portland metropolitan area (Ozawa, 2004). Traffic counts at eight transit-oriented developments in the Portland region estimate that 16% of the morning and 11% of the evening peak commuting period trips were made on transit which is higher than the Portland area’s regional average share of commute trips by transit (Ozawa, 2004). A transportation official in the Metro government told me residents in TOD areas report less time in vehicles over all and greater satisfaction with traveling options due to transit oriented development.
A survey of Orenco Station (Hillsboro, Oregon) residents, one of the larger transit oriented developments in the region, found that about 70% of respondents claimed to use transit more often than in their previous neighborhood (Ozawa, 2004). Eighteen percent used transit regularly to get to work, higher than the average 6.5% for Hillsboro from the 2000 census. In addition, over 86% of the residents claimed that the opportunity of walking to neighborhood shops and services reduced their need to drive cars. Data from the 2000 census for the block group that includes Orenco Station indicates that 7.9% of the residents rode rail transit to work regularly, compared to 3.1% for all of Hillsboro. Furthermore, 7.9% of the workers in the Orenco Station census block group walked or biked to work, compared to 2.6% for Hillsboro.
Expanding Rail Systems:
According to Wener, Evans, Philips, and Nadler (2003), the expansion of the New York/New Jersey rail system has reduced commuting time that has resulted in reduced stress and improved customer satisfaction. Authorities built a new route from New Jersey to New York. The new route required less transfers and reduced overall commuting time. The quasi-experimental study compared some New Jersey commuters who began taking a new connection to New York that reduced commuting time with another group of New Jersey riders who took the older, longer train route. The new, shorter route reduced stress, cortisol levels, and resulted in higher scores on an attention measure involving proof reading.
Governments are beginning to support and invest in high-speed rail. A good example is the Midwest high-speed rail memorandum reported in the Chicago Tribune. This memorandum is an agreement signed by eight Midwest governors and Mayor Daley of Chicago that advocates for a fast track high-speed passenger rail across the Midwest (Dorning and Hilkevitch, 2009). The MOA seeks an $8 billion pledge from President Obama in stimulus spending for high-speed rail across the Midwest (Dorning and Hilkevitch, 2009). The investment in high-speed rail should reduce long distance commuting times and, in turn, reduce stress and increase well-being of persons using the new service.
The City of Austin, Texas has implemented a flexible telecommuting policy for city employees. According to a city employee, the telecommuting program reduced employee stress by reducing the number of commute days and making it easier to balance and manage work and family (interview in August, 2009). Employees are happy with the telecommuting process; however, managers have concerns about employees’ abuses such as not actually working while at home. The city management recently scheduled a meeting to discuss these concerns. However, the city took no action to allay concerns about telecommuting causing a lack of productivity. I encourage the city of Austin to perform comparisons of productivity levels of employees working from home and employees working in the office. The cities can then assess if productivity is actually reduced when employees work from home.
Based on the information from the City of Austin, Texas, I believe local governments should implement telecommuting policies when possible. For example, several DeKalb County, Illinois jobs can be done through telecommuting. Mapping is a good example of a job that can be done just as effectively from home as in an office. Some members of the GIS department have already adopted telecommuting twice every workweek. According to these employees, telecommuting increases employee satisfaction by reducing commute times and making it more possible to balance work and family.
The federal, state, and local governments can play a pivotal role by formulating a well-being policies and measuring citizen well-being. Blitstein (2008) shows several examples of European countries and Bhutan investing significant attention on well-being policy. In the 1970s, the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan announced a focus on "gross national happiness" (GNH) (Blitstien, 2008). GNH was dismissed as a weird scheme conjured up by a backward developing country (Blitstien, 2008). Now, even the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which includes most of the world's wealthiest countries, hosted a "Beyond GDP" conference in November of 2007 (Blitstein, 2008). New Zealand and Ireland have begun to collect data of their citizens' social cohesion and stress (Blitstein, 2008). In January of 2008, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that Nobel Prize winners Joseph Stiglitz and Armatya Sen would head a commission to develop a happiness indicator for France (Blitstien, 2008).
Blitstein (2008) shows how the United Kingdom is doing more than any other western nation in terms of well-being policy. England has invested millions of pounds on a well-being advisory commission. This well-being commission includes issues on health, ecology, and happiness. At least one prime ministerial adviser has spoken publicly in favor of a proposal to raise taxes to encourage citizens to work less and spend more time with their families.
The U.S. federal government and state governments do not have a formal citizen well-being policy. There has been one attempt at the national level to include citizen well-being measures. North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan organized a recent subcommittee hearing to consider well-being indicators and other measures to the calculation of GDP (Blitstein, 2008). The Director of the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis, J. Steven Landefeld, supports adding well-being measurements to the economic and GDP measures, but does not believe his department should be responsible (Blitstien, 2008). The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is an appropriate place for developing well-being policy at the federal level. Comparable state legislative committees and local governing bodies should also become involved in citizen well being policy at the state and local level.
Finally, the federal, state, and local governments can assess citizen subjective well-being through regular citizen surveys. Many municipalities perform regular surveys on many government issues. For example, DeKalb, Illinois surveyed citizens’ trust in government and service satisfaction. However, governments should also survey whether citizens are satisfied with their life overall and other well-being indicators. Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness index is a good model for governments interested in measuring citizen well-being. Table 6 shows the nine criteria the Bhutanese government uses to assess citizen well-being. Some measurements like education, and, to some extent, health is already measured by federal, state and local governments. However, governments should measure all nine criteria. All of Bhutan’s well-being criteria can promote citizen well-being. For instance, one survey question under the psychological well-being criteria on Bhutanese surveys asks citizens to list seven things that they consider important in leading a happy and content life (Center for Bhutanese Studies, 2009). This important information might help governments tailor policy to increase opportunities to participate in popular activities listed in the survey.
Table 6: Nine Well-being Criteria of Bhutanese Government
Relation to Citizen Well-being
Provides information on what citizens do in their lives
Helps design balanced and comprehensive social and economic policies
Economic Living Standards
Compares Economic living standards to reported levels of well-being
Try to comprehend individuals’ evaluations of their own lives
Promoting citizen SWB is a duty of government
Effective government, democratic culture, trust in institutions, anticorruption
Responsive government known to increase citizen SWB
Safety, volunteering, social cohesion, family, duration of stay in the community
Social capital, trust
Sense of identity, values, language, beliefs, norms, and customs
Good health linked to higher levels of SWB
Assess knowledge base of citizens
Adequate education linked to high SWB
Land use, pollution, soil erosion, etc.
Green space linked to higher SWB
Center For Bhutanese Studies (2009)
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