Using the German Socio-Economic Panel, we examined life-satisfaction and housing satisfaction before and after moving (N = 3,658 participants from 2,162 households) with univariate and bivariate two-intercept two-slope latent growth models. The main findings were (a) a strong and persistent increase in average levels of housing satisfaction, (b) no increase in average life-satisfaction, (c) low stability in individuals’ level of housing satisfaction, and (d) high stability in individuals’ level of life-satisfaction. The results are discussed in the context of top–down and bottom–up models as well as adaptation theories of well-being. We conclude that moving or living in a better home is unrelated to life-satisfaction judgments for two reasons. First, housing makes a small contribution to life-satisfaction judgments. Second, positive effects of better housing are undermined by the greater costs of living in a better home. The results provide no support for the prediction of adaptation theory that shifting aspirations undermine the benefits of living in a better home.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
We would like to point out that our aspiration spiral theory differs from Easterlin’s (1974) assumption that rising aspirations explain why average life-satisfaction increased little over the past decades. Easterlin actually assumed that individuals’ well-being increases with increasing wealth and improving living conditions for explaining positive correlations between income and life-satisfaction. However, he assumed that affluent individuals raise the aspiration levels of other individuals and as a result undermine their well-being. Over time this leads to an increase in the aspiration level of the population that counteracts positive effects of actual improvements in living conditions at the population level. While both aspiration theories can explain the Easterlin Paradox, our theory can explain why individuals’ well-being does not increase over time, whereas Easterlin’s aspiration theory assumes that objective living conditions have lasting effects on individuals’ well-being.
Andrews, F. M., & Withey, S. B. (1976). Social indicators of well-being: Americans’ perceptions of life quality. New York: Plenum Press.
Biswas-Diener, R., & Diener, E. (2006). The subjective well-being of the homeless, and lessons for happiness. Social Indicators Research, 76, 185–205.
Bollen, K. A., & Curran, P. J. (2006). Latent curve models: A structural equation perspective. New York: Wiley.
Brett, J. M. (1982). Job transfer and well-being. Journal of Applied Psychology, 67, 450–463.
Brickman, P., & Campbell, D. T. (1971). Hedonic relativism and planning the good society. In M. H. Appley (Ed.), Adaptation-level theory (pp. 287–305). New York: Academic Press.
Brief, A. P., Butcher, A. H., George, J. M., & Link, K. E. (1993). Integrating bottom-up and top-down theories of subjective well-being: The case of health. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 646–653.
Campbell, A. (1980). The sense of well-being in America: Recent patterns and trends. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., & Rodgers, W. L. (1976). The quality of American life: Perceptions, evaluations, and satisfactions. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Cantril, H. (1965). The pattern of human concerns. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Diener, E. (1984). Subjective well-being. Psychological Bulletin, 95, 542–575.
Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 71–75.
Diener, E., Lucas, R. E., Schimmack, U., & Helliwell, J. (2009). Well-being for public policy. New York: Oxford University Press.
Diener, E., Lucus, R. E., & Scollon, C. N. (2006). Beyond the hedonic treadmill: Revising the adaptation theory of well-being. American Psychologist, 61, 305–314.
Diener, E., & Oishi, S. (2000). Money and happiness: Income and subjective well-being across nations. In E. Diener & E. M. Suh (Eds.), Cross-cultural psychology of subjective well-being (pp. 185–218). Boston: MIT Press.
Diener, E., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Very happy people. Psychological Science, 13, 81–84.
Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 276–302.
Dolan, P., & White, M. P. (2007). How can measures of subjective well-being be used to inform public policy? Perspectives in Psychological Science, 2, 71–85.
Duncan, T. E., Duncan, S. C., & Strycker, L. A. (2006). An introduction to latent variable growth curve modeling: Concepts, issues, and applications (2nd ed.). Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319, 1687–1688.
Easterlin, R. A. (1974). Does economic growth improve the human lot? Some empirical evidence. In P. A. David & M. W. Reder (Eds.), Nations and households in economic growth: Essays in honor of Moses Abramovitz. New York: Academic Press, Inc.
Evans, G. W., Wells, N. M., Chan, H. Y. E., & Saltzman, H. (2000). Housing quality and mental health. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 526–530.
Evans, G. W., Wells, N. M., & Moch, A. (2003). Housing and mental health: A review of the evidence and a methodological and conceptual critique. Journal of Social Issues, 59, 475–500.
Frick, J. R. (2006, May 22). Extensive overview of SOEP. Retrieved June 1, 2009, from http://www.diw.de/documents/dokumentenarchiv/17/43529/soep_overview.pdf.
Fried, M. (1966). Grieving for a lost home: Psychological costs of relocation. In J. Q. Wilson (Ed.), Urban renewal: The record and the controversy (pp. 359–379). Cambridge, Massachusetts: The M. I. T. Press.
Galster, G. C. (1987). Identifying the correlates of dwelling satisfaction: An empirical critique. Environment and Behavior, 19, 539–568.
Galster, G. C., & Hesser, G. W. (1981). Residential satisfaction: Compositional and contextual correlates. Environment and Behavior, 13, 735–758.
Gove, W. R., Hughes, M., & Galle, O. R. (1979). Overcrowding in the home—empirical-investigation of its possible pathological consequences. American Sociological Review, 44, 59–80.
Hagerty, M. R., & Veenhoven, R. (2003). Wealth and happiness revisited: Growing national income does go with greater happiness. Social Indicators Research, 64, 1–27.
Haisken-DeNew, J. P., & Hahn, M. (2006). PanelWhiz: A flexible modularized Stata interface for accessing large scale panel data Sets. http://www.panelwhiz.eu, mimeo.
Headey, B., Veenhoven, R., & Wearing, A. (1991). Top-down versus bottom-up theories of subjective well-being. Social Indicators Research, 24, 81–100.
Inman, M., & Sinn, M. (1987). Family stress in the interior living environment related to the number of bathrooms. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 16, 103–108.
Kahneman, D., & Krueger, A. B. (2006). Developments in the measurement of subjective well-being. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 20, 3–24.
Kahneman, D., Krueger, A. B., Schkade, D., Schwarz, N., & Stone, A. A. (2006). Would you be happier if you were richer? A focusing illusion. Science, 312, 1908–1910.
Long, L. (1991). Residential mobility differences among developed countries. International Regional Science Review, 14, 133–147.
Lucas, R. E. (2005). Time does not heal all wounds: A longitudinal study of reaction and adaptation to divorce. Psychological Science, 16, 945–950.
Lucas, R. E., Clark, A. E., Georgellis, Y., & Diener, E. (2003). Reexamining adaptation and the set point model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 527–539.
Lucas, R. E., & Schimmack, U. (2009). Income and well-being: How big is the gap between the rich and the poor? Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 75–78.
Lykken, D., & Tellegen, A. (1996). Happiness is a stochastic phenomenon. Psychological Science, 7, 186–189.
Møller, V. (2001). Monitoring quality of life in cities: The Durban case. Development Southern Africa, 18, 217–238.
Morris, E. W., & Winter, M. (1975). A theory of family housing adjustment. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 37, 79–88.
Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (2007). Mplus user’s guide (5th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Muthén & Muthén.
Oishi, S., & Schimmack, U. (in press). Residential mobility, well-being, and mortality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Oishi, S., Schimmack, U., & Colcombe, S. (2003). The contextual and systematic nature of life satisfaction judgments. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 232–247.
Oswald, A. J. (1997). Happiness and economic performance. The Economic Journal, 107, 1815–1831.
Peck, C., & Stewart, K. K. (1985). Satisfaction with housing and quality of life. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, 13, 363–372.
Pevalin, D. J., Taylor, M. P., & Todd, J. (2008). The dynamics of unhealthy housing in the UK: A panel data analysis. Housing Studies, 23, 679–695.
Schermelleh-Engel, K., Moosbrugger, H., & Müller, H. (2003). Evaluating the fit of structural equation models: Tests of significance and descriptive goodness-of-fit measures. Methods of Psychological Research, 8, 23–74.
Schimmack, U. (2001). Pleasure, displeasure, and mixed feelings: Are semantic opposites mutually exclusive? Cognition & Emotion, 15, 81–97.
Schimmack, U. (2008). The structure of subjective wellbeing. In M. Eid & R. J. Larsen (Eds.), The science of subjective well-being (pp. 97–123). New York: Guilford.
Schimmack, U., & Colcombe, S. (2007). Eliciting mixed feelings with the paired-picture paradigm: A tribute to Kellogg (1915). Cognition & Emotion, 21, 1546–1553.
Schimmack, U., Diener, E., & Oishi, S. (2002a). Life-satisfaction is a momentary judgment and a stable personality characteristic: The use of chronically accessible and stable sources. Journal of Personality, 70, 345–385.
Schimmack, U., Krause, P., Wagner, G. G., & Schupp, J. (2010). Stability and change of well being: An experimentally enhanced latent state-trait-error analysis. Social Indicators Research, 95, 19–31.
Schimmack, U., & Oishi, S. (2005). The influence of chronically and temporarily accessible information on life satisfaction judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 395–406.
Schimmack, U., Radhakrishnan, P., Oishi, S., Dzokoto, V., & Ahadi, S. (2002b). Culture, personality, and subjective well-being: Integrating process models of life satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 582–593.
Schneider, L., & Schimmack, U. (in press). Examining sources of self-informant agreement in life-satisfaction judgments. Journal of Research in Personality.
Schwarz, N., & Strack, F. (1999). Reports of subjective well-being: Judgmental processes and their methodological implications. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 61–84). New York: Russell-Sage.
Seko, M., & Sumita, K. (2009). Residential mobility and housing equity in Japan. Keio/Kyoto Market Quality Research Project, DP2008-032.
Shadan-Hojin Nihon Fudosan Kantei Kyokai [Japanese Association of Real Estate Appraisal]. (2009). Heisei 21-nen sekai chika-tou chosa kekka [The world land value survey of 2009]. Retrieved March 11, 2010, from http://www.fudousan-kanteishi.or.jp/japanese/material_j/pdf/tikatyousa_h21.pdf.
Stokols, D., & Shumaker, S. A. (1982). The psychological context of residential mobility and well-being. Journal of Social Issues, 38, 149–171.
Stutzer, A. (2004). The role of income aspirations in individual happiness. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 54, 89–109.
US Census Bureau (2010). Mobility status of the population by selected characteristics. Retrieved March 9, 2010, from http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2010/tables/10s0030.xls.
Van Boven, L., & Gilovich, T. (2003). To do or to have? That is the question. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 1193–1202.
Wagner, G. G., Frick, J. R., & Schupp, J. (2007). The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP): Scope, evolution and enhancements. Schmollers Jahrbuch, 127, 139–169. Retrieved March 8, 2010, from http://www.diw.de/documents/dokumentenarchiv/17/diw_01.c.77277.de/schmoller_wagner_etal_2007.pdf.
Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2003). Affective forecasting. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 35) (pp. 345–411). San Diego: Academic Press.
Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2008). Explaining away: A model of affective adaptation. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5, 370–386.
This research was supported by the Lambuth Fellowship awarded to Naoki Nakazato from Kwansei Gakuin University. We thank Dr. David Flora of York University who taught the first author the latent growth curve modeling at SPIDA 2008 and all organizing committee members and teaching assistants of SPIDA 2008. We also thank Leann Schneider, Jamie Schiller, Nellie Jafari, Jesse Graham, and Dr. Takehiro Fujihara for their valuable comments on a draft of this article.
About this article
Cite this article
Nakazato, N., Schimmack, U. & Oishi, S. Effect of Changes in Living Conditions on Well-Being: A Prospective Top–Down Bottom–Up Model. Soc Indic Res 100, 115–135 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11205-010-9607-6
- Housing satisfaction
- Prospective study
- Adaptation theory