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A Social Cure for Social Comparisons

Stefano Bartolini, Marcin Piekalkiewicz () and Francesco Sarracino

Department of Economics University of Siena from Department of Economics, University of Siena

Abstract: Social comparisons have severe negative consequences for happiness, health, and economic decisions. Is there a remedy? Some research suggests that social comparisons are intrinsic human characteristics rooted in the biology of the brain. We offer a different view based on approximately half a million interviews from nationally representative surveys. Specifically, we assess whether people with thriving social lives suffer less from social comparisons than others. Controlling for demographic factors, we find that isolated people are more likely to be concerned about whether they earn more or less than others. Conversely, the well-being of individuals with rich social lives does not depend on keeping up with the Joneses. This result is reflected at the country level: in countries that are socially flourishing, the differences in well-being between income groups are small, which is a consequence of the relatively small impact of income comparisons on well-being. This evidence suggests that social relations can be a cure for social comparisons. We discuss a few policies to promote social relations, relating to education reform, urban planning, and advertising regulation.

JEL-codes: I18 I31 Z18 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019-01
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-hap and nep-ure
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Citations: View citations in EconPapers (5)

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