Happy at Work in Africa? Measuring Hedonic Well‑Being Among Water Carriers in Rural Kenya Using the Experience Sampling Method

Peer Reviewed
1 March 2022

Joseph Cook, Jane Kabubo-Mariara, Peter Kimuyu

Despite work’s importance in people’s overall sense of purpose in life, several studies measuring momentary well-being find that people are very unhappy while at work. These studies have focused on workers in industrialized countries doing paid labor in the formal sector. For a large fraction of humanity, however, “work” is smallholder farming, tending cattle, and collecting water and fuelwood. We measure momentary well-being with the Experience Sampling Method in a sample of 195 subjects in rural Kenya. Subjects were the household’s main water carrier; 93% were women. Each subject was asked to complete four ESM surveys per day over eight weeks. Results from 9559 ESM records show that subjects are indeed less happy “at work”, whether that work is paid or unpaid casual labor, paid formal sector employment, or resource collection. They are also less energetic, less
sociable and in more pain. We also find evidence that subjects perceive themselves as less safe while working or traveling away from home. We find a statistically significant, though
small, relationship between the intercepts in the model (individual-level average momentary well-being) and the log of household wages earned over the past two weeks. The relationship is stronger with wages earned by the subject herself.

Files and links

Publication reference
Cook, J., Kabubo-Mariara, J., & Kimuyu, P. (2022). Happy at Work in Africa? Measuring Hedonic Well-Being Among Water Carriers in Rural Kenya Using the Experience Sampling Method. Journal of Happiness Studies, 23(6), 2449–2468. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-022-00509-2
Publication | 4 December 2022