DISCOVERING RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MATERIAL CONSUMPTION AND SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING
1 online resource (198 pages) : PDF
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
This dissertation theoretically and empirically investigates how material consumption affects human happiness and life satisfaction in the urbanized societies around the world. In recent literature, happiness and life satisfaction is encapsulated in a term – Subjective Well-being (SWB) – self-reported measure of overall happiness and satisfaction in the life of an individual. I use this subjective measurement to study people’s level of well-being. I develop a theoretical framework that explains how personal values and attitudes towards the political economy are indirectly motivated by institutionalized consumption ideals and empirically examine the effects of these attitudes on individual SWB. From an institutional perspective, I argue that the contemporary neoliberal socio-political regime which dominates national and transnational economic policies influences individual attitudes towards consumption outcomes as well as its drivers. The primacy of consumption and materialism, as enshrined in the ideals of this regime, affects the modalities of individual aspiration, adaptation and social comparison – psychological mechanisms associated with changes in SWB. And the most visible spatial manifestation of human-environment interaction under this regime are urban areas and the process of urbanization. Within this premise, I hypothesize that attitudes congruent with the ideals of the institutional environment harmonizes an individual’s social interactions, thus facilitating greater SWB. I test this hypothesis using data from 47 countries on the World Values Survey with an empirical model that estimates the attitudinal effects on SWB and its interactions with material conditions – at both individual and societal levels. The results indicate that individuals whose values and attitudes align with that of institutional ideals experience higher levels of SWB. I also find that gains or losses of SWB due to differences in attitudes are not even across economic classes. Following this analysis, I extend the framework to identify key dimensions of aggregate consumption outcomes and analyze how they explain the differences in well-being across urban areas. I model the average SWB of around 100 urban areas conditional to the various macroeconomic aspects of consumption. Consistent with the previous literature, I find that consumption power has a positive but diminishing effect on SWB. But I also find that consumption volatility and optimism about urbanization have strong and steady effects on urban areas’ life satisfaction. As part of this study, I also advance a flexible modeling approach that enables better quantification and comparison of these changes across the entire distribution of SWB across urban areas. Overall, the dissertation makes inroads in establishing institutional analysis as a valuable dimension through which human happiness and life satisfaction could be understood.
Geography & Urban Regional Analysis
Campbell, HarrisonWang, QingfangLee, Ming-Chun
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 2015.
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