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The Easterlin paradox and the decline of social capital: an integrated explanation

  • Maurizio Pugno

    (University of Cassino)

During the most recent decades people in industrialised countries have reported both a stagnant or even declining subjective well-being, as Easterlin (1974) originally observed, and deterioration in their social and family bonds, as Putnam (2000) has claimed. The paper proposes an integrated explanation of these two stylised facts by extending the analysis of the relative income explanation of the Easterlin paradox to social relationships as enjoyable ends of choice. Drawing on the evidence-based results of social psychology, the paper constructs a model whose premises are (i) that individuals produce social relationships by means of relational ability, (ii) that this ability is primarily shaped during infancy and remains largely unpredictable, and (iii) that commercial pressure on children to consume in competition with others may displace the enjoyment of social relationships. The model extends microfoundations to encompass new psychological dimensions. It is thus able to merge individuals’ idiosyncratic dynamics – which may deteriorate across generations – with improving economic contextual conditions, and to indicate some new priorities in policy options.

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Paper provided by Universita' di Cassino, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche in its series Working Papers with number 2008-02.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:css:wpaper:2008-02
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  8. Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert J. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 615, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  9. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
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  13. 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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  16. Stefano Bartolini & Ennio Bilancini & Maurizio Pugno, 2007. "Did the Decline in Social Capital Decrease American Happiness? A Relational Explanation of the Happiness Paradox," Department of Economics University of Siena 513, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  17. Ed Diener & Robert Biswas-Diener, 2002. "Will Money Increase Subjective Well-Being?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 57(2), pages 119-169, February.
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  22. Flouri, Eirini, 2000. "An integrated model of consumer materialism: Can economic socialization and maternal values predict materialistic attitudes in adolescents?," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 28(6), pages 707-724, June.
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