Subjective well-being in rural India: The curse of conspicuous consumption

R. Linssen*, L. van Kempen, G. Kraaykamp

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Using data on 697 individuals from 375 rural low income households in India, we test expectations on the effects of relative income and conspicuous consumption on subjective well-being. The results of the multi-level regression analyses show that individuals who spent more on conspicuous consumption report lower levels of subjective well-being. Surprisingly an individual's relative income position does not affect feelings of well-being. Motivated by positional concerns, people do not passively accept their relative rank but instead consume conspicuous goods to keep up with the Joneses. Conspicuous consumption always comes at the account of the consumption of basic needs. Our analyses point at a positional treadmill effect of the consumption of status goods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-72
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Indicators Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


  • Conspicuous consumption
  • India
  • LIFE
  • Poverty
  • Subjective well-being

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