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Do people think they have enough? A subjective income sufficiency assessment

Damaris Castro and Brent Bleys

Ecological Economics, 2023, vol. 205, issue C

Abstract: To what degree do individuals experience sufficiency in contemporary society? Although this question is highly relevant from an environmental sustainability point of view, empirical research on this topic is limited. In this article we conceptualize and measure sufficiency from a subjective perspective in a micro-economic context using two concepts: what level of personal monthly income is considered to be enough (sufficiency level) and to what degree do individuals evaluate their personal monthly income as being enough (sufficiency evaluation). The second concept is measured both directly and indirectly. Additionally, we perform an explorative investigation of the potential determinants of the concepts by regression analysis with a main focus on economic variables (income and homeownership) and personal values (materialism and environmental self-identity). Based on Belgian survey data (N = 1645) we find that, while the vast majority of individuals evaluate their income to be at least sufficient, there is substantial variation across individuals as to what level of income is considered to be enough. Furthermore, our regression results suggest that personal monthly income plays a primary role for subjective income sufficiency, albeit with contradicting effects for both concepts: having a higher income is associated with a higher income sufficiency evaluation, yet also pushes the quoted sufficiency level upwards. Homeownership is positively related to one of both concepts only: homeowners (whose property is fully paid off) directly evaluate their income as being more sufficient compared to non-homeowners, but they do not quote different sufficiency levels. On the other hand, our results show that materialism as well as environmental self-identity negatively contribute to subjective income sufficiency: being more materialistic is associated with both a lower income sufficiency evaluation as well as a higher quoted sufficiency level, while seeing oneself more as acting environmentally-friendly is found to push the quoted sufficiency level further upwards. We conclude that the high levels of subjective income sufficiency reported by the respondents are promising to the extent that this may suggest society is ready for environmental strategies that are focused on the demand-side.

Keywords: Environmental sustainability; Sufficiency strategy; Subjective income sufficiency; Personal income assessment; Sufficiency level; Sufficiency evaluation (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2023
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolecon.2022.107718

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