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The Psychology of Material Well-Being

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Abstract

Material well-being is defined in terms of satisfaction with a range economic concerns such as government’s handling of the economy, taxes, the cost of basic necessities, household income, pay and fringe benefits from one’s job, financial security, standard of living, and agreement within the family regarding how money should be spent. Much evidence is available demonstrating the substantial effect of material well-being on a variety of measures of subjective well-being. The literature review uncovered a host of antecedents or predictors of material well-being. These antecedents involve two sets of constructs, namely personal factors and contextual factors. Personal factors include socio-demographics (age, gender, education, income, marital status, family structure, etc.); personality traits (self-esteem, etc.) and personality dynamics (compensation, top-down spillover, etc.); needs and need satisfaction (how wealth serve to satisfy different needs), beliefs and mental associations (images of wealthy people); goals and aspirations (income goals and goal attainment); skills, behavior, and resources (financial capability, financial behavior, and lack of financial resources); and values (materialism), lifestyle (consumption), and habits (compulsive consumption). Contextual factors include social comparison (how evaluations of standard of living are influenced by social comparisons), adaptation (how income expectations are adapted by changing circumstances), and changes in the macro economic environment (changes in the rate of unemployment, inflation, economic growth, etc.).

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Notes

  1. Material well-being also covers macro aspects of consumer well-being. Specifically, consumer well-being involves subjective evaluations of consumer life (i.e., life experiences in the marketplace). Subjective evaluations of consumer life can be micro or macro. Micro aspects of consumer well-being involve consumers evaluating their well-being experiences with a particular product in terms of the various stages of the consumption life cycle (product acquisition, preparation, possession, consumption, maintenance, and disposal). In contrast, macro aspects of consumer well-being involve consumer evaluations of their marketplace experiences in the aggregate.

  2. Consistent with this line of thinking, Kasser and Sheldon (2002) conducted a study to examine the consumption practices during the Christmas holiday and consumer well-being. The study surveyed adults across the life span. Consumers reported higher levels of happiness when family and religious experiences are considered important. In contrast, they reported lower levels of happiness when they considered spending money and buying gifts to be important. The study also found that happier consumers were environmentally conscious. The authors concluded that the materialistic aspects of the Christmas season undermines well-being, while family and religious activities serve to enhance well-being. And consistent with the Kasser and Sheldon study, Xiao and Li (2011) collected survey data from consumers in 14 cities in China examining the relationship between sustainable consumption habits and life satisfaction. The study underscored the notion that consumers who engage in sustainable consumption (i.e., report high levels of purchasing and consuming green goods and services) also report high levels of life satisfaction (after controlling for the effects of gender, age, education, and household income). This study finding reinforced the notion that people who engage in prosocial spending and consumption tend to be happy (cf. Dunn et al. 2008).

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Sirgy, M.J. The Psychology of Material Well-Being. Applied Research Quality Life 13, 273–301 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-017-9590-z

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  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-017-9590-z

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