Happiness and poverty in the very poor Peru: Measurement improvements and a consistent relationship

Pedro Mateu, Enrique Vásquez, Javier Zúñiga, Franklin Ibáñez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle in a journalpeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Despite of poverty and extreme poverty estimations having decreased during the period 2006–2016 in Peru, from 49.1 to 20.7% and from 16.1 to 3.8%, respectively, the poor population still represents a latent concern for policy makers. Essentially, the main reason lies on the multidimensional problems of quality of life. Then, a research question yet unaddressed rises: Is it possible to find very poor people who feel happy? If so, what controls this relationship? The first main contribution of this study is the application of modern measurement theory to measure happiness. The short Oxford Happiness Questionnaire jointly with an ad hoc Multidimensional Poverty Index-MPI (8 items) were applied to a random sample of 537 household heads who live in the five poorest districts in Peru. Item response theory analysis was conducted to measure happiness scores. Findings reveal happiness scores and the MPI are negatively associated in the very poor Peru. Friendship, religiosity, and some relevant non-material characteristics of a family are the most important covariates of the relationship between these variables. In fact, the second contribution of this study represents the inclusion of variables associated to the quantity and quality of friendship as relevant controllers of happiness and poverty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1075-1094
Number of pages20
JournalQuality and Quantity
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study belongs to a large project named “The determinants of happiness in two Perus: 2017" funded by the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at Universidad del Pacifico (Lima, Peru). Its main aim was to compare the level of happiness between the very poor and the very rich population of Peru (two strata). This study only focused on the five poorest districts, the very poor stratum. All derived inferences only pertain to this group.

Funding Information:
We are extremely grateful for comments and advice from Enver Tarazona, Juan Francisco Castro, Cynthia Sanborn, and Edward B. Applegate. We recognize the valuable contributions and support provided by María-José Quiñones, Mario Lituma, and Joaquín Armas.

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article: Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research at Universidad del Pacífico (Lima, Peru) (Grant # 16-135). Acknowledgements

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Nature B.V.


  • Extreme poverty
  • Happiness
  • Item response theory
  • Peru


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