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http://ssrn.com/abstract=1292175
 
 

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Wealth, Warmth and Wellbeing: Whether Happiness is Relative or Absolute Depends on Whether it is About Money, Acquisition or Consumption


Christopher K. Hsee


University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

Yang Yang


Carnegie Mellon University

Naihe Li


Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) - Antai College of Economics and Management

Luxi Shen


University of Chicago - Booth School of Business

October 30, 2008

Journal of Marketing Research, Forthcoming

Abstract:     
A central and still open question in consumer and happiness research is whether happiness depends on absolute or relative levels of wealth and consumption. To address this question the authors go to a finer level than overall happiness and distinguish three types of happiness: happiness from money (monetary experience), from acquiring an item (acquisition experience), and from consuming an item (consumption experience). They find that monetary and acquisition experiences are relative but consumption experience can be absolute. The authors further distinguish consumption as being inherently evaluable (such as the temperature of bathwater) or inherently inevaluable (such as the size of a diamond), and find that inherently evaluable experience is absolute, while inherently inevaluable experience is relative. Including both experimental and field data, this research suggests that raising the wealth of all can possibly raise the happiness of all if attention is focused on consumption rather than on money or acquisition and wealth is spent on improving inherently evaluable rather than inherently inevaluable consumption.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: happiness, money, acquisition, evaluability, relative vs. absolute

JEL Classification: D81, D11, D12, D91

working papers series


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Date posted: November 5, 2008 ; Last revised: November 12, 2008

Suggested Citation

Hsee, Christopher K. and Yang, Yang and Li, Naihe and Shen, Luxi, Wealth, Warmth and Wellbeing: Whether Happiness is Relative or Absolute Depends on Whether it is About Money, Acquisition or Consumption (October 30, 2008). Journal of Marketing Research, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1292175 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1292175

Contact Information

Christopher K. Hsee (Contact Author)
University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )
5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
Yang Yang
Carnegie Mellon University ( email )
Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States
Naihe Li
Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) - Antai College of Economics and Management ( email )
No.535 Fahuazhen Road
Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Shanghai, Shanghai 200052
China
Luxi Shen
University of Chicago - Booth School of Business ( email )
5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
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