Oda Nordheim

Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)


Portrait of Oda Nordheim

Social Protection and its Impact on Quality of Life: How types of social spending affect self-rated quality of life in OECD-countries


Recent decades have seen a growing body of literature aiming to identify which types of welfare regimes are most effective at promoting a good life. It is widely known that socioeconomic resources have a positive impact on quality of life and empirical work has found more generous welfare states to be better able at promoting a range of different indicators of individual welfare. Less attention has however been placed on identifying the specific elements of the welfare state that are most effective in this respect. This project considers the welfare state and how investment in social policy affects a range of variables capturing the quality of life at the individual level, such as life satisfaction, health, loneliness, and participation and functioning in society – with a focus on OECD countries and countries within Europe. The main contribution of this project is to analyse the effect of different types of social spending, focusing on different vulnerable groups relevant to each category of spending. While much of the existing literature is focusing on monetary indicators, this project will analyse quality of life in terms of subjective measures, also exploring the impact on levels of inequality.

Paper 1: considers the welfare state and how investment in social policy affects individuals’ self-rated health status within European countries; aiming to identify which elements of the welfare state should be promoted to improve health.

Paper 2: The paper is aiming to establish to what extent low literacy skills are preventing participation in society, and whether investments in active labour market policies (ALMPs). are associated with better conditions for individuals with low literacy skills in terms of societal participation, focusing on labour market outcomes, quality of life, digital participation and adult learning.

Paper 3: This paper investigates how social spending related to old age affects the quality of life among older individuals, focusing on loneliness, self-rated health, and life satisfaction, and whether higher spending is associated with more support for state responsibility for welfare services among the old, aiming to understand of how old-age social policy can be designed in a better way to promote quality of life.  

Paper 4: This paper will analyse social expenditure related to health, and whether the quality of government contributes to moderate the impact health spending has on self-rated health and satisfaction with health services.

The project uses multi-level analyses with social expenditure data from Eurostat and the OECD statistical database and individual-level data on quality of life from the European Social Survey (ESS) and the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC).