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African Review of Economics and Finance

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The relationship between national well-being and xenophobia in a divided society: The case of South Africa

Steven Gordon

Abstract


Personal well-being surveys have increased their coverage on the African continent in recent years, but detailed research on subjective national wellbeing is less  common. The link between national well-being and xenophobic sentiments has not been adequately tested in an African context. In order to better understand (and correspondingly counter) xenophobic sentiments in sub-Saharan Africa, this article tests the correlation of National Well-being Index (NWI) with attitudes towards immigrants in a sub-Saharan country. South Africa was chosen as the research site for this study and data were used from the 2012 South African Social Attitudes Survey (SASAS), a nationally representative opinion poll of 2 521 respondents. In 2012 the six items that constitute the NWI were included in this survey, measuring public evaluations of the country’s economic, natural, governmental, social and security environment. This allowed the construction of the NWI, a composite score that provides a more precise measurement of sociotropic concerns. The findings of this study show that, even when controlling for individual well-being and socio-economic status, the NWI had a statistically significant relationship with attitudes towards immigrants. The lower the reported NWI, the more likely an individual will be to believe negative stereotypes about immigrants. This suggests the importance of studying and measuring subjective national well-being on the African continent.

Keywords: Immigration, national well-being, National Well-being Index, South Africa, xenophobia




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