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NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- Despite the rantings that dominate U.S. pop culture against big government, a comprehensive survey finds that people who live in nations where the national governments spend more on social services are much happier than people with more laissez-faire governments.

For the study -- Assessing the Impact of the Size and Scope of Government on Human Well-Being -- which was published in the journal Social Forces, researchers analyzed data from 50,000 respondents in 21 advanced industrialized countries collected by the World Values Survey from 1981 to 2007.

"The effect of state intervention into the economy equals or exceeds marriage or employment status -- two traditional predictors of happiness -- when it comes to satisfaction," said Patrick Flavin, an assistant professor of political science in Baylor's College of Arts & Sciences and co-author of the study.

The Great Recession that started in 2007 has kicked off a debate about how much governments should intervene in the market economy, with conservatives often championing free market capitalism with minimal government intervention. By contrast, left-leaning politicians and labor organizations tend to argue for more government intervention to compensate for shortcomings of the market and the social inequalities that are caused or worsened by them.

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