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Reign in hell or serve in heaven? A cross-country journey into the relative vs absolute perceptions of wellbeing

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  • Corazzini, Luca
  • Esposito, Lucio
  • Majorano, Francesca

Abstract

Questionnaires exploring the relativist vs absolutist perception of wellbeing are administered to 3883 students in eight different countries, four low-income countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Kenya and Laos, 1924 respondents) and four high-income countries (Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, 1959 respondents). Our data reveal that wellbeing is perceived mainly in relative terms with the strength of relativism being higher for respondents in high-income countries. However, when the satisfaction of some ‘basic needs’ is at stake the absolutist concern becomes powerful. Personal characteristics such as gender and background of studies have a significant role in determining respondents’ perception of wellbeing. Finally, additional insights emerge from our study. Interpersonal comparisons take place by looking both ‘upward’ and ‘downward’ along the income scale, not only income ranking but also the magnitude of reference incomes plays a role and the perception of wellbeing is more elastic to absolute rather than relative income.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Volume (Year): 81 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 715-730

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Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:81:y:2012:i:3:p:715-730

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Keywords: Wellbeing perceptions; Cross-country questionnaire study; Survey experiment;

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Cited by:
  1. Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Sterner, Thomas, 2011. "Discounting and Relative Consumption," Discussion Papers dp-11-38, Resources For the Future.
  2. Friehe, Tim & Mechtel, Mario, 2014. "Conspicuous consumption and political regimes: Evidence from East and West Germany," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 62-81.
  3. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2012. "When Samuelson Met Veblen Abroad: National and Global Public Good Provision when Social Comparisons Matter," UmeÃ¥ Economic Studies 843, Umeå University, Department of Economics.
  4. Andrew E. Clark & Conchita D'Ambrosio, 2014. "Attitudes to Income Inequality: Experimental and Survey Evidence," PSE Working Papers halshs-00967938, HAL.
  5. Thomas Aronsson & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2013. "Veblen’s theory of the leisure class revisited: implications for optimal income taxation," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 551-578, September.
  6. Laszlo Goerke, 2013. "Relative Consumption and Tax Evasion," IAAEU Discussion Papers 201301, Institute of Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union (IAAEU).
  7. Redzo Mujcic & Paul Frijters, 2013. "Conspicuous Consumption, Conspicuous Health, and Optimal Taxation," Discussion Papers Series 483, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
  8. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2011. "State-Variable Public Goods When Relative Consumption Matters: A Dynamic Optimal Taxation Approach," UmeÃ¥ Economic Studies 828, Umeå University, Department of Economics.
  9. Tim Friehe & Mario Mechtel, 2013. "Gambling to Leapfrog in Status?," CESifo Working Paper Series 4174, CESifo Group Munich.
  10. Tim Friehe & Mario Mechtel, 2012. "Conspicuous Consumption and Communism: Evidence from East and West Germany," IAAEU Discussion Papers 201203, Institute of Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union (IAAEU).

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