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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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  • Luca Corazzini, Lucio Esposito, Francesca Majorano.

Abstract

Questionnaires exploring the relativist vs absolutist perception of wellbeing are administered to 3,883 respondents in eight different countries, four low-income countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Kenya and Laos, 1,924 respondents) and four high-income countries (Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, 1,959 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. 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. Finally, personal characteristics such as gender and background of studies have a significant role in determining respondents’ relativist perception of wellbeing.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by ISLA, Centre for research on Latin American Studies and Transition Economies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy in its series ISLA Working Papers with number 36.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:slp:islawp:islawp36

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Keywords: wellbeing perceptions; cross-country questionnaire survey; survey experiment.;

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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Laszlo Goerke, 2013. "Relative Consumption and Tax Evasion," CESifo Working Paper Series 4077, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Tim Friehe & Mario Mechtel, 2012. "Conspicuous Consumption and Communism: Evidence from East and West Germany," CESifo Working Paper Series 3922, CESifo Group Munich.
  3. Tim Friehe & Mario Mechtel, 2013. "Gambling to Leapfrog in Status?," CESifo Working Paper Series 4174, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. 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.
  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. Redzo Mujcic & Paul Frijters, 2013. "Conspicuous Consumption, Conspicuous Health, and Optimal Taxation," Discussion Papers Series 483, School of Economics, University of Queensland, Australia.
  7. Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Sterner, Thomas, 2013. "Discounting and Relative Consumption," Working Papers in Economics 559, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  8. Andrew E. Clark & Conchita D'Ambrosio, 2014. "Attitudes to Income Inequality: Experimental and Survey Evidence," PSE Working Papers halshs-00967938, HAL.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

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