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Income Aspirations, Television and Happiness: Evidence from the World Value Surveys

  • Luigino Bruni

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of Milan-Bicocca)

  • Luca Stanca

    ()

    (Department of Economics, University of Milan-Bicocca)

This paper argues that television viewing produces higher material aspirations, by enhancing both adaptation and positional effects, thus lowering the effect of income on life satisfaction. Using individual data from the World Values Survey we present evidence indicating that the effect of income on both life and financial satisfaction is significantly smaller for heavy television viewers, relative to occasional viewers. This finding is robust to a number of specification checks and alternative interpretations. Overall, the results can be interpreted as providing an additional explanation for the income-happiness paradox: the pervasive and increasing role of television viewing in people’s life, by raising material aspirations, reduces the effect of income on individual happiness.

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File URL: http://dipeco.economia.unimib.it/repec/pdf/mibwpaper89.pdf
File Function: First version, 2005
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Paper provided by University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 89.

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Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2005
Date of revision: Jun 2005
Handle: RePEc:mib:wpaper:89
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  1. Andrew E. Clark and Andrew J. Oswald, . "Satisfaction and Comparison Income," Economics Discussion Papers 419, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  2. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Testing Theories of Happiness," IEW - Working Papers 147, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  3. Oswald, Andrew, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 478, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
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  5. John F. Helliwell, 2002. "How's Life? Combining Individual and National Variables to Explain Subjective Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 9065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Neumark, David & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1998. "Relative income concerns and the rise in married women's employment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 157-183, October.
  7. Corneo, Giacomo, 2002. "Work and Television," CEPR Discussion Papers 3373, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. 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.
  9. Bruno S. Frey & Christine Benesch & Alois Stutzer, 2005. "Does Watching TV Make Us Happy?," CREMA Working Paper Series 2005-15, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  10. Layard, Richard, 1980. "Human Satisfactions and Public Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(363), pages 737-50, December.
  11. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-84, July.
  12. O'Guinn, Thomas C & Shrum, L J, 1997. " The Role of Television in the Construction of Consumer Reality," Journal of Consumer Research, University of Chicago Press, vol. 23(4), pages 278-94, March.
  13. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
  14. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1978. "Economic Growth and Social Welfare: The Need for a Complete Study of Happiness," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 31(4), pages 575-87.
  15. Luigino Bruni & Luca Stanca, 2005. "Watching alone: Relational Goods, Television and Happiness," Working Papers 90, University of Milano-Bicocca, Department of Economics, revised Jun 2005.
  16. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
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