Social Cohesion, Ethnicity and Well-Being: Results from an Intervention Study in Kyrgyzstan



When looking at important indicators of well-being, there is extensive evidence that levels of life satisfaction differ between ethnic groups, such that minority groups by and large tend to report lower levels of life satisfaction than majority ethnic groups. A growing body of literature has begun investigating the relationship between an individual’s community and their own levels of life satisfaction. While community deprivation and community ethnic composition are important factors for understanding individual ethnic disparities in life satisfaction, there is a gap in understanding the role of community social cohesion, as well as the effect on change in life satisfaction over time. Using panel survey data from 5.207 adults living in 30 sub-districts of rural Kyrgyzstan, we conduct a multilevel analysis of whether social cohesion serves as a moderator for the relationship between ethnicity and change in life satisfaction. While results do not demonstrate a positive effect of community social cohesion on change in life satisfaction, they do indicate that higher levels of community social cohesion minimize the ethnic group disparities in change in life satisfaction. These findings imply that social cohesion may be one additional piece of the puzzle in understanding ethnic disparities in life satisfaction.

General Information

Keywords: ethnicity, ethnic disparities, Kyrgyzstan, life satisfaction, change in life satisfaction, social cohesion, well-being

Journal rubric: Empirical Research

Article type: scientific article


Funding. Klaus Boehnke’s contribution to this article was prepared within the framework of the HSE University Basic Research Program. The micro data used in this article was originally collected for the project “Social Cohesion through Community-Based Development Project” funded by the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) and the World Bank. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the AKF or the World Bank.

Received: 18.08.2021


For citation: Larsen M.M., Boehnke K., Esenaliev D., Bruck T. Social Cohesion, Ethnicity and Well-Being: Results from an Intervention Study in Kyrgyzstan. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2021. Vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 46–55. DOI: 10.17759/chp.2021170405.



  1. Angner E. Subjective well-being. Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics, 2010. Vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 361—368.
  2. Bécares L., Nazroo J., Stafford M. The buffering effects of ethnic density on experienced racism and health. Health and Place, 2009. Vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 700—708. DOI:10.1016/j. healthplace.2008.10.008
  3. Breton R. Institutional completeness of ethnic communities and the personal relations of immigrants. American Journal of Sociology, 1964. Vol. 70, no. 2, pp. 193— 205. DOI:10.1086/223793
  4. Cheung F., Lucas R.E. Assessing the validity of single-item life satisfaction measures: Results from three large samples. Quality of Life Research, 2014. Vol. 23, no. 10, pp. 2809—2818. DOI:10.1007/s11136-014-0726-4
  5. Clark A. et al. Lags and leads in life satisfaction: A test of the baseline hypothesis. Economic Journal, 2008. Vol. 118, no. 529, pp. F222-F243. DOI:10.1111/j.1468- 0297.2008.02150.x
  6. Delhey J., Dragolov G. Happier together: Social cohesion and subjective well-being in Europe. International Journal of Psychology, 2016. Vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 163—176. DOI:10.1002/ijop.12149
  7. de Souza Briggs X. Moving up versus moving out: Neighborhood effects in housing mobility programs. Housing Policy Debate, 1997. Vol. 8, no. 1, pp. 195—234. DOI:10.1080/ 10511482.1997.9521252
  8. de Vroome T., Hooghe M. Life satisfaction among ethnic minorities in the Netherlands: Immigration experience or adverse living conditions? Journal of Happiness Studies, 2014. Vol. 15, no. 6, pp. 1389—1406. DOI:10.1007/s10902- 013-9483-2
  9. Diener E. Subjective well-being: The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 2000. Vol. 55, no. 1, pp. 34—43. DOI:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.34
  10. Diener E. et al. The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 1985. Vol. 49, pp. 71-75.
  11. Dietz R.D. The estimation of neighborhood effects in the social sciences: An interdisciplinary approach. Social Science Research, 2002. Vol. 31, no. 4, pp. 539—575. DOI:10.1016/ S0049-089X(02)00005-4
  12. Dragolov G. et al. Social cohesion in the Western world. What holds societies together: Insights from the Social Cohesion Radar. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2016. 138 p. DOI:10.1007/978-3-319-32464-7.
  13. Easterlin R. Happiness and economic growth — the evidence. In Glatzer W. et al. (eds.), Global handbook of quality of life: Exploration of well-being of nations and continents. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer, 2015, pp. 283-299. DOI:10.1007/978-94-017-9178-6_12
  14. Enders C.K., Tofighi D. Centering predictor variables in cross-sectional multilevel models: A new look at an old issue. Psychological Methods, 2007. Vol. 12, no. 2, pp. 121—138. DOI:10.1037/1082-989X.12.2.121
  15. Esenaliev D. et al. Social cohesion through community-based development in Kyrgyzstan. Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan: University of Central Asia, 2018. IPPA Working Paper 46.
  16. Hülür G. et al. Levels of and changes in life satisfaction predict mortality hazards: Disentangling the role of physical health, perceived control, and social orientation, 2017. Psychology and Aging, Vol. 32, no. 6, pp. 507—520. DOI:10.1037/pag0000187
  17. Huskey E. et al. Ten years gone: The legacy of the 2010 revolution and ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan: A roundtable. Washington, D.C.: The Oxus Society for Central Asian Affiairs, 2021.
  18. Hsu C.Y., Chang S.S., Yip P. A multilevel analysis of a population-based sample from Hong Kong. Urban Studies, 2017. Vol. 54, no. 16, pp. 3700—3717. DOI:10.1177/0042098016677208
  19. Kirmanoǧlu H., Başlevent C. Life satisfaction of ethnic minority members: An examination of interactions with immigration, discrimination, and citizenship. Social Indicators Research, 2014. Vol. 116, no. 1, pp. 173—184. DOI:10.1007/ s11205-013-0276-0
  20. Knies G. Income comparisons among neighbours and satisfaction in East and West Germany. Social Indicators Research, 2012. Vol. 106, no. 3, pp. 471—489. DOI:10.1007/ s11205-011-9818-5
  21. Knies G., Melo P.C., Zhang M. Neighbourhood deprivation, life satisfaction and earnings: Comparative analyses of neighbourhood effects at bespoke scales. Urban Studies, 2020. DOI:10.1177/0042098020956930
  22. Knies G., Nandi A., Platt L. Life satisfaction, ethnicity and neighbourhoods: Is there an effect of neighbourhood ethnic composition on life satisfaction? Social Science Research, 2016. Vol. 60, pp. 110—124. DOI:10.1016/j. ssresearch.2016.01.010
  23. Kreft I.G.G., de Leeuw J., Aiken L.S. The effect of different forms of centering in hierarchical linear models. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 1995. Vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 1—21. DOI:10.1207/s15327906mbr3001_1
  24. Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission. Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry into the Events in Southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. Kyrgyzstan Inquiry Commission, 2011.
  25. Larsen M., Boehnke K. Measuring social cohesion in the Kyrgyz Republic: The Social Cohesion Index. Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic: University of Central Asia, 2016. IPPA Working Paper 37.
  26. Lewis D.G., Sagnayeva S. Corruption, patronage and illiberal peace: Forging political settlement in post-conflict Kyrgyzstan. Third World Quarterly, 2020. Vol. 41, no. 1, pp. 77—95. DOI:10.1080/01436597.2019.1642102
  27. National Statistical Committee of the Kyrgyz Republic. Population, 2019.
  28. Marat E. ‘We disputed every word’: How Kyrgyzstan’s moderates tame ethnic nationalism. Nations and Nationalism, 2016. Vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 305-324. DOI:10.1111/nana.12156
  29. Melvin N. Promoting a stable and multiethnic Kyrgyzstan: Overcoming the causes and legacies of violence. New York City, USA: Open Society Foundations, 2011.
  30. Oshio T. et al. How does area-level deprivation depress an individual’s self-rated health and life satisfaction? Evidence from a nationwide population-based survey in Japan. BMC Public Health, 2021. Vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 1—11. DOI:10.1186/ s12889-021-10578-2
  31. Poortinga W. Social capital: An individual or collective resource for health? Social Science & Medicine, 2006. Vol. 62, no. 2, pp. 292—302. DOI:10.1016/J. SOCSCIMED.2005.06.008
  32. Safi M. Immigrants’ life satisfaction in Europe: Between assimilation and discrimination. European Sociological Review, 2010. Vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 159—176. DOI:10.1093/esr/jcp013
  33. Sam D. et al. Psychological and sociocultural adaptation of immigrant youth. In Berry J. et al (eds.), Immigrant youth in cultural transition: Acculturation, identity, and adaptation across national contexts. New York: Psychology Press, 2006, pp. 117-141. DOI: 10.4324/9780415963619-5
  34. Shields M.A., Wheatley Price S., Wooden M. Life satisfaction and the economic and social characteristics of neighbourhoods. Journal of Population Economics, 2009. Vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 421—443. DOI:10.1007/s00148-007- 0146-7
  35. StataCorp. Stata Statistical Software: Release 17. College Station, USA: StataCorp LP, 2021.
  36. Veenhoven, R. (2012). Happiness, also known as ‘Life satisfaction’ and ‘Subjective well-being’. In Land K.C., Michalos A.C., Sirgy M.J. (eds.), Handbook of Social Indicators and Quality of Life Research. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer, 2012, pp. 63—77. DOI:10.1007/978- 94-007-2421-1_3
  37. Verkuyten, M. Life satisfaction among ethnic minorities: The role of discrimination and group identification. Social Indicators Research, 2008. Vol, 89, no. 3, pp. 391—404. DOI:10.1007/s11205-008-9239-2
  38. Zuccotti C.V. Shaping ethnic inequalities: The production and reproduction of social and spatial inequalities among ethnic minorities in England and Wales. Ph.D. (Political and Social Sciences) diss. Florence, Italy: European University Institute, 2015. 406 p. DOI:10.2870/193678

Information About the Authors

Mandi M. Larsen, PhD, University Lecturer for Methods of Empirical Social Research, Jacobs University Bremen, Bremen, Germany, ORCID:, e-mail:

Klaus Boehnke, Doctor of Psychology, Professor of Social Science Methodology, Jacobs University Bremen, Deputy Director of the Center for Sociocultural Research, HSE University, Bremen, Germany, ORCID:, e-mail:

Damir Esenaliev, PhD, Leibniz Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops (IGZ), ISDC — International Security and Development Center, Berlin, Germany, ORCID:, e-mail:

Tilman Bruck, PhD, Group Leader, Leibniz Institute of Vegetable and Ornamental Crops (IGZ), Director, ISDC — International Security and Development Center, Berlin, Berlin, Germany, ORCID:, e-mail:



Total: 335
Previous month: 8
Current month: 3


Total: 113
Previous month: 4
Current month: 1