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The Social Contingency of Wants

Author

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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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    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, vol. 87(9-10), pages 1967-1983, September.
    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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