Original Research

The stochastic determinants of happiness in South Africa: A micro-economic modelling approach

Carel J. van Aardt, Bernadene de Clercq, Jacolize Meiring
Journal of Economic and Financial Sciences | Vol 12, No 1 | a228 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/jef.v12i1.228 | © 2019 Carel J. van Aardt, Bernadene de Clercq, Jacolize Meiring | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 June 2018 | Published: 07 February 2019

About the author(s)

Carel J. van Aardt, Bureau of Market Research, University of South Africa, South Africa
Bernadene de Clercq, Department of Taxation, University of South Africa, South Africa
Jacolize Meiring, Department of Taxation, University of South Africa, South Africa

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Orientation: The levels of happiness in South Africa have deteriorated as witnessed by recent increases in public protests.

Research purpose: Based on a newly developed conceptual framework, the linear path of influence of a variety of determinants of happiness is challenged in this article. This is done by firstly postulating a potential sequence of influences through which underlying factors have impact on non-proximate factors, which in turn influence the proximate factors, which also affect happiness.

Motivation for the study: Given the global interest on well-being, happiness as an indicator of subjective well-being is an important trend to review and reflect on. Based on trends in happiness ratings, South Africans are no longer as satisfied and happy with their lives as they were previously. Given the apparent high level of unhappiness in South Africa, this article aims to identify the various stochastic determinants of happiness within the South African context.

Research approach/design and method: The predictability of the conceptual framework was tested by means of categorical regressions.

Main findings: The results indicate that a stochastic happiness determination path exists from underlying to non-proximate, to proximate to happiness outcomes and not necessarily the linear path as per the traditional approach of investigation. The results of the study challenge policymakers in South Africa to rethink their current strategies as the current status quo will not necessarily have the desired results. Moreover, higher levels of happiness will only be possible if positive macro-dynamics go hand in hand with positive micro-dynamics. These include high levels of cognitive abilities among the population, the population striving for happiness, planning their personal and financial futures, having access to financial and risk products, and having sustainable income sources.

Practical/managerial implications: Through the identification of the identification of the path by which happiness is influenced, programmes and policies designed to improve the subjective well-being of South Africans can be customised to ensure the correct action is taken at the correct level of initiation.

Contribution/value-add: One of the contributions of this article is the development of a conceptual framework concerning the path or chain of influences across several layers of variables and not only the direct relationships, as is the norm. Although the relationships between identified determinants and happiness have been researched extensively, limited information is available concerning the path of influence in South Africa. The second contribution is therefore not to identify the direct determinants of happiness in South Africa through the conventional methods, but rather to test the potential path of influence of these factors on one another as well as on happiness based on the developed conceptual framework.


happiness; micro-economic modelling approach; determinants; conceptual framework; cognitive abilities


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