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The Social Contingency of Wants

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  • Kjell Arne Brekke
  • Richard B. Howarth

Abstract

ABSTRACT. Economic models typically assume that individual wants are determined by forces exogenous to the economic system. Social psychology and consumer research, in contrast, support the view that the perceived benefits of goods and services are strongly affected by endogenously determined social norms. We present a selective overview of the literature on the relationship between consumption and well-being, exploring the ways in which informal arguments from social science might be linked to formal models of economic behavior. We find that the 'fixed preferences" hypothesis leads to the systematic undervaluation of environmental services and the underprovisioning of environmental goods.

Suggested Citation

  • Kjell Arne Brekke & Richard B. Howarth, 2000. "The Social Contingency of Wants," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 76(4), pages 493-503.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:landec:v:76:y:2000:i:4:p:493-503
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Robert T. Deacon, 1994. "Deforestation and the Rule of Law in a Cross-Section of Countries," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 70(4), pages 414-430.
    2. Deacon Robert T., 1995. "Assessing the Relationship between Government Policy and Deforestation," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 28(1), pages 1-18, January.
    3. Sandeep H. Patel & Thomas C. Pinckney & William K. Jaeger, 1995. "Smallholder Wood Production and Population Pressure in East Africa: Evidence of an Environmental Kuznets Curve?," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 71(4), pages 516-530.
    4. Arild Angelsen, 1996. "Deforestation: Population or market driven? Different approaches in modelling agricultural expansion," CMI Working Papers WP 1996:9, CMI (Chr. Michelsen Institute), Bergen, Norway.
    5. Ault, David E & Rutman, Gilbert L, 1979. "The Development of Individual Rights to Property in Tribal Africa," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 22(1), pages 163-182, April.
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    7. Dewees, Peter A., 1995. "Trees on farms in Malawi: Private investment, public policy, and farmer choice," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 23(7), pages 1085-1102, July.
    8. Kahn, James R. & McDonald, Judith A., 1995. "Third-world debt and tropical deforestation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(2), pages 107-123, February.
    9. Capistrano, Ana Doris & Kiker, Clyde F., 1995. "Macro-scale economic influences on tropical forest depletion," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 21-29, July.
    10. Bluffstone Randall A., 1995. "The Effect of Labor Market Performance on Deforestation in Developing Countries under Open Access: An Example from Rural Nepal," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 42-63, July.
    11. Edward B. Barbier & Nancy Bockstael & Joanne C. Burgess & Ivar Strand, 1995. "The Linkages between the Timber Trade and Tropical Deforestation—Indonesia," The World Economy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(3), pages 411-442, May.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Howarth, Richard B. & Kennedy, Kevin, 2016. "Economic growth, inequality, and well-being," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 231-236.
    2. Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Martinsson, Peter, 2006. "Honestly, why are you driving a BMW?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 129-146, June.
    3. Mariano Torras, 2008. "The Subjectivity Inherent in Objective Measures of Well-Being," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 9(4), pages 475-487, December.
    4. João Bernardino & Tanya Araújo, 2010. "On Positional Consumption and Technological Innovation- an Agent-based Approach," Working Papers Department of Economics 2010/04, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, Universidade de Lisboa.
    5. Brekke, Kjell Arne & Kverndokk, Snorre & Nyborg, Karine, 2003. "An economic model of moral motivation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 1967-1983.
    6. Howarth, Richard B. & Farber, Stephen, 2002. "Accounting for the value of ecosystem services," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 421-429, June.
    7. Roos, Michael W.M., 2008. "Willingness to consume and ability to consume," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 66(2), pages 387-402, May.
    8. Howarth, Richard B., 2007. "Towards an operational sustainability criterion," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 656-663, September.
    9. Gsottbauer, Elisabeth & van den Bergh, Jeroen C.J.M., 2014. "Environmental policy when pollutive consumption is sensitive to advertising: Norms versus status," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 107(C), pages 39-50.
    10. Courard-Hauri, David, 2004. "The effect of income choice on bias in policy decisions made using cost-benefit analyses," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(3-4), pages 191-199, December.
    11. Brekke, Kjell Arne & Howarth, Richard B. & Nyborg, Karine, 2003. "Status-seeking and material affluence: evaluating the Hirsch hypothesis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(1), pages 29-39, April.
    12. Mainwaring, Lynn, 2001. "Environmental values and the frame of reference," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(3), pages 391-402, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q31 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation - - - Demand and Supply; Prices

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