Advertisement

Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 19, Issue 7, pp 1981–2008 | Cite as

Competing for Happiness: Attitudes to Competition, Positional Concerns and Wellbeing

  • Mara GrasseniEmail author
  • Federica Origo
Research Paper

Abstract

Competition is one of the driving forces of the market, but the actual effects that a competitive behavior can produce, especially on well-being, depend on how competition is perceived by economic agents. In this paper we empirically study the relationship among different attitudes to competition, positional concerns, and happiness. Using microdata from an ad-hoc survey administered to all first-year undergraduate students attending courses in economics and sociology at a medium-sized university in the North of Italy, we find a high degree of positionality for several items, especially income. Furthermore, the attitude to competition matters for both positionality and wellbeing: while a negative perception of competition increases the probability of being positional, a positive perception of competition increases life satisfaction. Results by gender highlight that a negative perception of competition is detrimental particularly for women. These results are robust to alternative definitions of the competition indicators and to alternative ways to control for potential endogeneity.

Keywords

Positional concern Competition Happiness Well-being Rivalry 

JEL Classification

D0 D1 

Notes

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Algan, Y., & Cahuc, P. (2013). Trust and growth. Annual Review of Economics, 5(1), 521–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alpizar, F., Carlsson, F., & Johansson-Stenman, O. (2005). How much do we care about absolute versus relative income and consumption? Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 56(3), 405–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barcena-Martın, E., Cortes-Aguilar, A., & Moro-Egido, A. I. (2016). Social comparisons on subjective well-being: The role of social and cultural capital. Journal of Happiness Studies. doi: 10.1007/s10902-016-9768-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barrios, J. J. (2015). “I think competition is better than you do: does it make me happier?”: Evidence from the World Value Surveys. Journal of Happiness Studies, 16(3), 599–618.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bertrand, M. (2011). New perspectives on gender. Handbook of Labor Economics, 4b, 1543–1590.Google Scholar
  6. Bertrand, M., & Mullainathan, S. (2001). Do people mean what they say? Implications for subjective survey data. American Economic Review, 91(2), 67–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brandts, J., Riedl, A., & van Winden, F. (2009). Competitive rivalry, social disposition and subjective well-being: An experiment. Journal of Public Economics, 93(11–12), 1158–1167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Campbell, A. (2002). Mind of her own: The evolutionary psychology of women. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Celse, J. (2012). Is positional bias an artefact? Distinguishing positional concerns from egalitarian concerns. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 41(3), 277–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Clark, A., Frijters, P., & Shields, M. (2008). Relative income, happiness and utility: An explanation for the Easterlin paradox and other puzzles. Journal of Economic Literature, 46(1), 95–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clark, A., & Senik, C. (2010). Who compares to whom: The anatomy of income comparisons in Europe. Economic Journal, 120(544), 573–594.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Datta Gupta, N., Poulsen, A., & Villeval, M. C. (2013). Gender matching and competitiveness: Experimental evidence. Economic Inquiry, 51(1), 816–835.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dittmann, J., & Goebel, J. (2010). Your house, your car, your education: The socioeconomic situation of the neighborhood and its impact on life satisfaction in Germany. Social Indicators Research, 96(3), 497–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dohmen, T., & Falk, A. (2011). Performance pay and multidimensional sorting: Productivity, preferences, and gender. American Economic Review, 101(2), 556–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dolan, P., Peasgood, T., & White, M. (2008). Do we really know what makes us happy? A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29(1), 94–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dubin, J. A., & McFadden, D. L. (1984). An econometric analysis of residential electric appliance holdings and consumption. Econometrica, 52(2), 345–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Easterlin, R. (1974). Does economic growth improve the human lot? Some empirical evidence. In P. David & M. Reder (Eds.), Nations and households in economic growth: Essays in honor of Moses Abramovitz. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  18. Easterlin, R. (1995). Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all? Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 27(1), 35–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Easterlin, R. (2001). Income and happiness: Towards a unified theory. Economic Journal, 111(473), 465–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Frank, R. H. (1985). The demand for unobservable and other nonpositional goods. American Economic Review, 75, 101–116.Google Scholar
  21. Frank, R. H., Gilovich, T., & Regan, D. (1993). Does studying economics inhibit cooperation? Journal of Economic Perspectives, 7(2), 159–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Frey, B. S., & Meier, S. (2003). Are political economists selfish and indoctrinated? Evidence from a natural experiment. Economic Inquiry, 41(3), 448–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Frey, B. S., & Meier, S. (2004). Pro-social behavior in a natural setting. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 54(1), 65–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gneezy, U., Niederle, M., & Rustichini, A. (2003). Performance in competitive environments: Gender differences. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(3), 1049–1074.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gneezy, U., & Rustichini, A. (2004). Gender and competition at a young age. American Economic Review, 94(2), 377–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Grolleau, G., Mzoughi, N., & Saïd, S. (2012). Do you believe that others are more positional than you? Results from an empirical survey on positional concerns in France. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 41(1), 48–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Heffetz, O., & Frank R. H. (2008). Preferences for status: Evidence and economic implications. Handbook of Social Economics. Google Scholar
  28. Helliwell, J., & Wang, S. (2010). Trust and well-being. International Journal of Well-Being, 1(2), 42–78.Google Scholar
  29. Hillesheim, I., & Mechtel, M. (2013). How much do others matter? Explaining positional concerns for different goods and personal characteristics. Journal of Economic Psychology, 34(C), 61–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hirsh, F. (1976). Social limits to growth. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jurajda, S., & Munich, D. (2011). Gender gap in performance under competitive pressure: Admission to Czech Universities. American Economic Review, 101(3), 514–518.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lavy, V. (2013). Gender differences in market competitiveness in a real workplace: Evidence from performance-based pay tournaments among teachers. Economic Journal, 123(569), 540–573.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Layard, R. (1980). Human satisfactions and public policy. Economic Journal, 90(363), 737–750.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Layard, R. (2005). Rethinking public economics: The implications of rivalry and habit. In L. Bruni & P. L. Porta (Eds.), Economics and happiness: Framing the analysis (pp. 147–164). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Marwell, G., & Ames, R. (1981). Economists free ride, does anyone else? Journal of Public Economics, 15(3), 295–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Niederle, M. (2014). Gender. NBER Working Papers No. 20788.Google Scholar
  37. Niederle, M., & Vesterlund, L. (2007). Do women shy away from competition? Do men compete too much? Quarterly Journal of Economics, 122(3), 1067–1101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Niederle, M., & Vesterlund, L. (2011). Gender and competition. Annual Review of Economics, 3(1), 601–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. OECD. (2013). PISA 2012 Results: ready to learn: Students’ engagement, drive and self-beliefs (Vol. III). Paris: PISA, OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  40. Ors, E., Palomino, F., & Peyrache, E. (2013). Performance gender gap: Does competition matter? Journal of Labor Economics, 31(3), 443–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Paserman, D. (2010). Gender differences in performance in competitive environments: Evidence from professional tennis players. Mimeo: Boston University.Google Scholar
  42. Reyes-García, V., Babigumira, R., Pyhälä, P., Wunder, S., Zorondo-Rodríguez, F., & Angelsen, A. (2016). Subjective wellbeing and income: Empirical patterns in the rural developing world. Journal of Happiness Studies, 17(2), 773–791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rubin, P. (2003). Folk economics. Southern Economic Journal, 70(1), 157–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rubin, P. (2014). Emporiophobia (fear of markets): Cooperation or competition? Southern Economic Journal, 80(4), 875–889.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schwieren, C., & Weichselbaumer, D. (2010). Does competition enhance performance or cheating? A laboratory experiment. Journal of Economic Psychology, 31(3), 241–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Solnick, S. J., & Hemenway, D. (1998). Is more always better?: A survey about positional concerns. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 37(3), 373–383.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Solnick, S. J., & Hemenway, D. (2005). Are positional concerns stronger in some domains than in others? American Economic Review, 95(2), 147–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Solnick, S., Hong, L., & Hemenway, D. (2007). Positional goods in the United States and China. Journal of Socio-Economics, 36(4), 537–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Stucke, E. M. (2013). Is competition always good? Journal of Antitrust Enforcement, 1(1), 162–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Van Praag B., & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, A. (2006). An almost integration-free approach to ordered response models. Tinbergen Institute Discussion Paper No. 2006-047/3.Google Scholar
  51. Wittchen, M., Krimmel, A., Kohler, M., & Hertel, G. (2013). The two sides of competition: Competition-induced effort and affect during intergroup versus interindividual competition. British Journal of Psychology, 104(3), 320–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BergamoBergamoItaly

Personalised recommendations