Abstract

Subjective measures of overall quality of life are built in to numerous surveys in Canada and around the world, and are increasingly analyzed and used as indicators of human well-being and social progress. Yet, even in Canada, federal surveys exclude Aboriginal peoples on-reserve and, in general, there are very few data sources on life satisfaction among Aboriginal respondents. We report on two exceptional surveys that do solicit life satisfaction assessments from Aboriginal respondents, and compare inferences from these data to the general Canadian population. We generally find comparable effects of objective life circumstances for the two groups, and use these to explain some of the advantages and disadvantages affecting life satisfaction in each sample. On the other hand, we find an unusual coefficient on the survey income measure for on-reserve Aboriginal respondents, likely indicating that total income is not appropriately measured by the standard income question. We propose that policy interest in life satisfaction measures for gauging effective avenues for improving lives is appropriate in the case of Aboriginal groups in Canada, just as for other populations in Canada and around the world.

Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Stéphanie Laroche-Pierre for editing help. This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture.

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