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Income Inequality, Income, and Internet Searches for Status Goods: A Cross-National Study of the Association Between Inequality and Well-Being

Listed author(s):
  • Lukasz Walasek

    ()

    (University of Warwick)

  • Gordon D. A. Brown

    (University of Warwick)

Registered author(s):

    Abstract Is there a positive association between a nation’s income inequality and concerns with status competition within that nation? Here we use Google Correlate and Google Trends to examine frequency of internet search terms and find that people in countries in which income inequality is high search relatively more frequently for positional brand names such as Prada, Louis Vuitton, or Chanel. This tendency is stronger among well-developed countries. We find no evidence that income alone is associated with searches for positional goods. We also present evidence that the concern with positional goods does not reflect non-linear effects of income on consumer spending, either across nations or (extending previous findings that people who live in unequal US States search more for positional goods) within the USA. It is concluded that income inequality is associated with greater concerns with positional goods, and that this concern is reflected in internet searching behaviour.

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    File URL: http://link.springer.com/10.1007/s11205-015-1158-4
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    Article provided by Springer in its journal Social Indicators Research.

    Volume (Year): 129 (2016)
    Issue (Month): 3 (December)
    Pages: 1001-1014

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    Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:129:y:2016:i:3:d:10.1007_s11205-015-1158-4
    DOI: 10.1007/s11205-015-1158-4
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    Order Information: Web: http://www.springer.com/economics/journal/11135

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    1. Drechsel-Grau, Moritz & Schmid, Kai D., 2014. "Consumption–savings decisions under upward-looking comparisons," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 106(C), pages 254-268.
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    4. Samuel Bowles & Yongjin Park, 2005. "Emulation, Inequality, and Work Hours: Was Thorsten Veblen Right?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(507), pages 397-412, November.
    5. Ori Heffetz, 2011. "A Test of Conspicuous Consumption: Visibility and Income Elasticities," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 1101-1117, November.
    6. Frederick Solt, 2009. "Standardizing the World Income Inequality Database," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(2), pages 231-242.
    7. Gravelle, Hugh & Wildman, John & Sutton, Matthew, 2002. "Income, income inequality and health: what can we learn from aggregate data?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 54(4), pages 577-589, February.
    8. Layte, Richard & Whelan, Christopher T., 2014. "Who Feels Inferior? A Test of the Status Anxiety Hypothesis of Social Inequalities in Health," Papers WP476, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
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