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Personal Goals, Socio-Economic Context and Happiness: Studying a Diverse Sample in Peru

Abstract

Past research demonstrates that happiness is higher to the extent people prioritize intrinsic goals (for self-acceptance, affiliation, and community feeling) over extrinsic goals (for financial success, popularity, and image). Because most of the research on personal goals and wellbeing has been conducted in economically-developed nations, we collected data from a sample of 500 Peruvians living in five districts illustrating the socio-economic and geo-political diversity of the country. Participants living further away from the rich district of Lima placed greater importance on extrinsic and less importance on intrinsic goals. Further, happiness was generally higher when people focused on intrinsic goals than when they prioritized extrinsic goals. Interestingly, in a slum of Lima, a focus on intrinsic goals was negatively associated with well-being. This finding is in line with past studies showing that pursuing intrinsic goals in situations that frustrate their attainment is associated with lower well-being.

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Notes

  1. In 2012, Peru’s Gross National Product (GNP) per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP) was 10,765 current international dollars (http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.PP.CD).

  2. Data from the 2007 national census is available on-line at http://www.inei.gob.pe.

  3. In order to explore the robustness of the intrinsic/extrinsic classification in our Peruvian sample we asked an open question on the most important goal in the participant’s life. Goals were coded depending on whether they included an economic concern or not. The resulting variables correlated positively with extrinsic values (r = 0.13, p < 0.01) and negatively with the intrinsic goal score (r = −0.11, p < 0.05).

  4. We used the average income of the poorest 5 % (150 Nuevos Soles) and the average income of the richest 1 % (17.583 Nuevos soles) from the 2010 Encuesta Nacional de Hogares to assign values to the lower and upper thresholds.

  5. The question in Spanish was: ‘¿En general como se siente normalmente de feliz/infeliz? ‘Answers were presented on a semantic scale from muy feliz, bastante feliz to ni feliz ni infeliz, no tan feliz and muy infeliz.

  6. The fact that happiness and goals were captured in the same survey suggested we could have a potential common method bias, affecting the validity of findings concerning the relationship between the two measures. One way we tried to reduce this bias was by placing the happiness question at the end of the questionnaire and the questions on goals at the beginning, with attitudinal and socio-economic questions in between. We also conducted the Harman’s single-factor test using exploratory factor analysis (Podsakoff et al. 2003). A two factor solution emerged with goals and happiness loading on two separate factors, contrary to the one factor solution we found when investigating the life satisfaction and vitality scores that we also had collected. This led us conclude that the risk of common method bias was relatively low for the happiness variable, thereby confirming its suitability as our chosen dependent variable.

  7. Calculations have been done using Gallup World Poll data for 2011 as presented in the World Happiness report (Helliwell et al. 2012).

  8. Interactions between extrinsic goals and district were also tested but yielded non-significant results and are therefore not reported here.

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Correspondence to Monica Guillen-Royo.

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Guillen-Royo, M., Kasser, T. Personal Goals, Socio-Economic Context and Happiness: Studying a Diverse Sample in Peru. J Happiness Stud 16, 405–425 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-014-9515-6

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Keywords

  • Happiness
  • Personal goals
  • Developing countries
  • Income
  • Peru