Varieties of Democracy and Life Satisfaction: Is There a Connection?


How, if at all, do different “varieties” or “principles” of democracy affect human happiness? While the studyof democracy’s relationship with well-being is an old one, recent conceptual developments in the study of democracy have not been assessed to a great extent. In this article, we attempt to address this shortcoming. We examine the relationship between five varietiesof democracy (liberal, participatory, deliberative, egalitarian, and polyarchy) and life satisfaction across 103 high-, middle-, and low-income countries in the 2010s. We find a modest, positive association between most democratic principles and self-reported satisfaction. Further exploration indicates that the strongest association is the one between life satisfaction and participatory democracy. This analysis represents an initial attempt at probing the effect of democracy on human happiness by disentangling the heterogeneous impact of different democratic principles. Implications for the study of democracy and subjective well-being are discussed.

Social Science Quarterly.
Francesco Bromo
Francesco Bromo
Dissertation Fellow

My research interests include executives, legislatures, electoral and policy outcomes, representative institutions, coalition governance, constitutional law, and judicial politics.