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Book Review Feature: Two Reviews of The Challenge of Affulence: Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain Since 1950

Authors


  •  We are grateful to Alois Stutzer for extremely helpful ideas on this topic. For valuable discussions, we thank also Andrew Clark, Amanda Goodall, Mark Harrison, Tatiana Kornienko, Avner Offer, Sarah Shalgosky, Alois Stutzer, and Robert Wade. The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) provided research support through an ESRC professorial fellowship to the first author.

  • By contrast, most articles published in this Journal are perhaps best viewed as unimportant (the majority will not be quoted a dozen times in their lifetimes) but correct (they have been refereed and will not be contradicted in any clear way by what goes later). This is normal science.

Abstract

Is affluence a good thing? The book The Challenge of Affluence by Avner Offer (2006) argues that economic prosperity weakens self-control and undermines human well-being. Consistent with a pessimistic view, we show that psychological distress has been rising through time in modern Great Britain. Taking over-eating as an example, our data reveal that half the British population view themselves as overweight, and that happiness and mental health are worse among fatter people in Britain and Germany. Comparisons also matter. We discuss problems of inference and argue that longitudinal data are needed. We suggest a theory of obesity imitation where utility depends on relative weight.

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