Civic Engagement and Its Relationship with Subjective Well-Being among Low-Income Individuals
Civic engagement, involving people in public processes to achieve common goals, has received increased attention in the past several decades. This renewed interest was triggered by the seeming decline in civic engagement, particularly in the context of Western societies including the U.S. In addition, its potentially positive effects, such as psychological well-being at the individual level, have recently received much attention. Low-income people in developing countries suffer from double discrimination: first, the lack of opportunities to participate in civic matters due to their low socio-economic status (SES) and second, the lack of civil society culture in developing countries. However, less attention has been paid to civic engagement in the context of developing countries and low-income people, in spite of the importance of civic engagement to them. Given the significance of civic engagement for low-income populations in developing countries, this dissertation intends to fill the gaps left by previous scholarship. The following are specific objectives for the study: 1) Paper 1 aims to investigate the construct validity of an instrument to measure civic engagement among low-income populations in developing countries; 2) Paper 2 aims to examine the associations between country-level political and economic determinants and civic engagement among low-income people in developing countries; and 3) Paper 3 aims to examine the effect of civic engagement on subjective well-being through the mediating effect of sense of agency. Using the cross-national data set, the World Values Survey Wave 6 (2010-2014), this study first found that civic engagement among low-income individuals in low- and middle-income countries is defined in three dimensions: electoral behaviors, membership in civic organizations, and cognitive engagement. This result contributes to measurement development of civic engagement, especially among the low-income individuals in the context of developing countries, who have been neglected in policy-making processes. In Paper 2, I found that civic engagement increases in economically disadvantaged environments (low GNI per capita and high Gini coefficient). This finding may reveal the strength that low-income populations have. Lastly, the results of Paper 3 showed that electoral engagement and membership in civic organizations were directly related to well-being, but cognitive engagement had an indirect effect on well-being through a sense of agency. Also, the result of a non-recursive model showed that engagement in electoral behaviors leads to a sense of well-being, not in the reverse direction. The results from Paper 3 may demonstrate the mechanism by which civic engagement is related to well-being.