Â© 2018, Springer Nature B.V. While a growing literature within the study of subjective well-being demonstrates the impact of socio-political factors on subjective well-being, scholars have conspicuously failed to consider the role of the size and scope of government as determinants of well-being. In this study, we examine the size of the public sector as a determinant of cross-national variation in life satisfaction across the industrial democracies. At the individual-level, we find that public employees are happier and exhibit greater life satisfaction than otherwise similar others. At the aggregate level, the data strongly suggest that the subjective well-being varies positively with the size of the public sector. The implications for the study of life satisfaction are discussed.