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Income Aspirations, Television and Happiness: Evidence from the World Values Survey

  • Luigino Bruni
  • Luca Stanca

This paper investigates the role of television in producing higher material aspirations, by enhancing both adaptation and positional effects. Using a large sample of individuals from the World Values Survey, we find that the effect of income on both life and financial satisfaction is significantly smaller for heavy television viewers than for occasional viewers. This finding is robust to a number of specification checks and alternative interpretations. The results suggest an additional explanation for the income-happiness paradox: the pervasive and increasing role of television viewing in contemporary society, by raising material aspirations, contributes to offset the effect of higher income on individual happiness. Copyright 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd..

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Article provided by Wiley Blackwell in its journal Kyklos.

Volume (Year): 59 (2006)
Issue (Month): 2 (05)
Pages: 209-225

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Handle: RePEc:bla:kyklos:v:59:y:2006:i:2:p:209-225
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  1. Oswald, Andrew, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 478, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  2. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
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  8. Layard, Richard, 1980. "Human Satisfactions and Public Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(363), pages 737-50, December.
  9. O'Guinn, Thomas C & Shrum, L J, 1997. " The Role of Television in the Construction of Consumer Reality," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(4), pages 278-94, March.
  10. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  11. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1978. "Economic Growth and Social Welfare: The Need for a Complete Study of Happiness," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(4), pages 575-87.
  12. Bruni, Luigino & Stanca, Luca, 2008. "Watching alone: Relational goods, television and happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 506-528, March.
  13. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2001. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," CESifo Working Paper Series 503, CESifo Group Munich.
  14. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-84, July.
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  16. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
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