THE SENSE OF WELL-BEING IN AMERICA: Recent Patterns and Trends by Angus Campbell

THE SENSE OF WELL-BEING IN AMERICA: Recent Patterns and Trends

Email this review


The program director at the Institute of Social Research, University of Michigan, draws from five Institute studies spanning the years 1957-1978 to ""conclude,"" typically, that people with high incomes exhibit a greater ""positive feeling"" about their lives, but not sufficiently greater satisfaction with ""life as a whole."" The book is dogged throughout by its tangled attempt to define ""well-being""; by its reliance on the respondents' interpretation of terms; by its commitment to subjective perceptions, whatever the objective data. Thus, we are told that 70 percent of all married persons report themselves ""very happy"" with their marriage, and 60 percent ""completely satisfied""--while out in the world the divorce rate booms. A further difficulty is Campbell's thesis that college graduates represent some sort of a vanguard, less concerned with economic values, and more with ""psychological"" values, than the less educated. One does not need to probe deeply here to find an endorsement of individual fulfillment as a national goal, and a disparagement of concern with ""the needs of the 'ill-housed, ill-clad, and ill-nourished.'"" But most of the content is a muddle of the obvious (healthy people don't see health as a problem), the tautological (what people think of their neighborhoods depends on how they see them), and the meaningless.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1980
Publisher: McGraw-Hill