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Art Alderson
Inequality, Status, and Subjective Well-Being


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Subjective well–being is shaped by social inequality. For instance, in every society for which we have data, rich people tend to be happier than poor people. Using unique data gathered by the author on social comparison, we can now better distinguish between relative and absolute income effects on subjective well-being. We can also assess the association between well-being and standing on other goods with varying positional or Veblen-good characteristics (i.e., home, cars, clothes, education, vacation time, and cultural activities). The central analysis indicates that the effect of income on subjective well-being in the US is largely relative, lending support to the idea that happiness is shaped by the operation of a positional treadmill, in addition to an hedonic treadmill.
Selected publications
  • Moller, St., Alderson, A., Nielson, F.: Changing Patterns of Income Inequality in U.S. Counties, 1970-2000. In: American Journal of Sociology 114, 1037-1101 (2009).

  • Alderson, A., Junisbai, A., Heacook, I.: Social Status and Cultural Consumption in the United States. In: Poetics 35, 191-212 (2007).

  • Alderson, A., Beckfield, J.: Power and Position in the World City System. In: American Journal of Sociology 109, 811-851 (2004).

    Art Alderson is Professor of Sociology at Indiana University. He is currently doing research on income distribution, the world city system, globalization, and status and subjective well-being, lifestyle, and consumption.
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