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Reign in Hell or Serve in Heaven? A Cross-country Journey into the Relative vs Absolute Perceptions of Wellbeing

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  • Luca Corazzini, Lucio Esposito, Francesca Majorano.

Abstract

Questionnaires exploring the relativist vs absolutist perception of wellbeing are administered to 3,883 respondents in eight different countries, four low-income countries (Bolivia, Brazil, Kenya and Laos, 1,924 respondents) and four high-income countries (Italy, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, 1,959 respondents). Our data reveal that wellbeing is perceived mainly in relative terms with the strength of relativism being higher for respondents in high-income countries. However, when the satisfaction of some ‘basic needs’ is at stake the absolutist concern becomes powerful. Additional insights emerge from our study. Interpersonal comparisons take place by looking both ‘upward’ and ‘downward’ along the income scale, not only income ranking but also the magnitude of reference incomes plays a role and the perception of wellbeing is more elastic to absolute rather than relative income. Finally, personal characteristics such as gender and background of studies have a significant role in determining respondents’ relativist perception of wellbeing.

Suggested Citation

  • Luca Corazzini, Lucio Esposito, Francesca Majorano., 2010. "Reign in Hell or Serve in Heaven? A Cross-country Journey into the Relative vs Absolute Perceptions of Wellbeing," ISLA Working Papers 36, ISLA, Centre for research on Latin American Studies and Transition Economies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy.
  • Handle: RePEc:slp:islawp:islawp36
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    wellbeing perceptions; cross-country questionnaire survey; survey experiment.;

    JEL classification:

    • C83 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Survey Methods; Sampling Methods
    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • O57 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Comparative Studies of Countries

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