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A Note on Income Aspirations, Television and Happiness

In their innovative and frequently cited study on the impact watching television (TV) has on income aspirations and happiness, Luigino Bruni and Luca Stanca 2006, henceforth B&S) offer an alternative explanation of Easterlin's income-happiness paradox: “television viewing in contemporary society, by raising material aspirations, contributes to offset the effect of higher income on individual happiness” (B&S, p. 225). More generally, the paper contributes to the literature of economic psychology, addressing the determinants and formation of preferences. While the theoretical analysis of B&S and the hypothesis on the effect of TV on material aspirations are well-grounded, the empirical evidence they present to corroborate the TV hypothesis is rather weak. After correcting a technical inaccuracy of B&S' empirical analysis one obtains results which no longer confirm a significant, positive and robust impact of TV consumption on material aspirations. As discussed in the third section, the revised empirical result does not disprove B&S' main hypothesis on the role of TV in shaping individual preferences. However, it suggests applying a more direct approach of measuring the effect of TV on aspiration than that performed in B&S's empirical analysis.

11. April 2013

Authors Lutz Schneider

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