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Consumption changes, not income changes, predict changes in subjective well-being

Brown, Gordon D. A.; Gathergood, John


Gordon D. A. Brown


Does happiness depend on what one earns or what one spends? Income is typically found to have small beneficial effects on well-being. However, economic theory suggests that well-being is conferred not by income but by consumption (i.e., spending on goods and services), and a person’s level of consumption may differ greatly from their level of income due to saving behavior and taxation. Moreover, research within consumer psychology has established relationships between people’s spending in specific categories and their well-being. Here we show for the first time using panel data that changes in life satisfaction are associated with changes in consumption, not changes in income. We also find some evidence that increased conspicuous consumption is more strongly associated with improved well-being than is increased nonconspicuous consumption.


Brown, G. D. A., & Gathergood, J. (2019). Consumption changes, not income changes, predict changes in subjective well-being. Social Psychological and Personality Science,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 16, 2019
Online Publication Date Apr 8, 2019
Publication Date Apr 8, 2019
Deposit Date Apr 12, 2019
Publicly Available Date Apr 12, 2019
Journal Social Psychological and Personality Science
Print ISSN 1948-5506
Electronic ISSN 1948-5514
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Income, Consumption, Conspicuous consumption, Well-being, Life satisfaction
Public URL
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Additional Information Copyright © 2019 by Social and Personality Psychology Consortium


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