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


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.


Positional concern Competition Happiness Well-being Rivalry 

JEL Classification

D0 D1 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BergamoBergamoItaly

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