Do japanese citizens move to rural areas seeking a slower life? Differences between rural and urban areas in subjective well-being

Hiroki Sasaki


For some time, individuals in multiple contexts have been moving from rural to urban areas for economic reasons. In recent years, however, young people in Japan have been increasingly turning to rural areas to embrace a slower, less-hectic lifestyle. Despite this interesting development, researchers have thus far failed to identify determinants of residents’ well-being in rural and urban areas in Japan. Moreover, recent empirical work has shown that stated happiness or subjective well-being (SWB) can serve as an empirical proxy for perceived utility. To expand upon this line of research, in this paper, I use SWB to gauge disparities between the Japanese rural and urban environments. In addition, I determine how natural capital and social capital affect SWB for both rural and urban residents. Results show that on average, rural residents report higher SWB than urban residents despite low average income. I also identify multiple factors other than household income that affect SWB; these relationships are particularly pronounced for rural residents. Finally, results demonstrate that residents that migrate from urban to rural areas reported high levels of SWB. Taken together, the results of this study provide new insight into rural values and the attractiveness of rural residency.


Happiness; subjective well-being; natural capital and social capital

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