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Conspicuous consumption, inconspicuous leisure

  • Kenneth Arrow
  • Partha Dasgupta

It is commonly argued that because relative consumption appears to matter to people, they must be involved in a 'rat race': people work harder and consume more than they would have were optimum public policies in place. But although consuming more today would improve one's relative consumption now, it would worsen one's relative consumption in the future. In this article we identify the structure of felicity functions for which the two effects offset each other exactly. The finding goes some way toward explaining why, while household surveys suggest that relative consumption matters, the consumption behaviour of households has not pointed unambiguously to the presence of relative consumption effects. Copyright � The Author(s). Journal compilation � Royal Economic Society 2009.

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Paper provided by Economics, The University of Manchester in its series The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series with number 0903.

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Date of creation: 2009
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Handle: RePEc:man:sespap:0903
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  1. Luttmer, Erzo F. P., 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," Working Paper Series rwp04-029, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
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  15. Bagwell, Laurie Simon & Bernheim, B Douglas, 1996. "Veblen Effects in a Theory of Conspicuous Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 349-73, June.
  16. Richard Layard, 2006. "Happiness and public policy: a challenge to the profession," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 47483, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  17. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1987. "Relative-Income Effects and the Appropriate Level of Public Expenditure," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(2), pages 293-300, June.
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  19. 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.
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