Applied welfare economics proceeds from the assumption that preferences are fixed and independent of social context. Social psychologists and anthropologists, in contrast, interpret preferences as being strongly shaped by culture and the prevailing social norms. This viewpoint is supported by a wealth of evidence from ethnographies, social surveys, and experimental studies.Integrating theory and evidence from a range of social sciences, the authors argue that the satisfaction derived from material goods depends upon their symbolic meaning, as people use goods to reinforce a positive social identity. They further contend that this calls for the incorporation of status preferences in economic models. The book finds that concerns over social status may lead decision makers to significantly overvalue consumption and undervalue the natural environment. In addition, income and consumption taxes that are normally regarded as `distortionary' may be necessary to address the social costs of status signalling. Based on the available evidence, the authors argue that failing to account for status preferences can lead to flawed policy prescriptions in debates over optimal taxation, the economics of climate change and Environmental Kuznets Curves. To address this bias, the book offers a tractable, operational, and theoretically grounded approach to the economics of social status. Students and scholars of ecological, environmental and resource economics will find Status, Growth and the Environment to be a highly original and fascinating read. It will also be of great relevance to anyone with an interest in applied welfare economics.
ContentsBehavioral Motivation 3. The Psychology of Well-Being 4. Modelling Socially Contingent Preferences 5. Status Signalling and Environmental Externalities 6. Status Signalling and Taxation 7. Status Signalling and Climate Change 8. Status Signalling and Economic Growth 9. Status Signalling and Environmental Kuznets Curves 10. Social Status in Applied Welfare Economics: Models and Rhetoric Bibliography Index