Aspiration Level and Social Comparison as Factors in Determining Life Satisfaction
Keywords:financial aspirations, income, life satisfaction, subjective well-being, social comparison, economic crisis
This research aims to establish the effect of aspiration level and social comparison on life satisfaction in Russia. Unlike previous studies, it is argued that in their financial aspirations individuals orient themselves not to a single ideal income figure but rather to an inherently social-comparative space of prosperity. Depending on their life experience they will aim at either approaching the higher border or the center of this space, or at getting farther from the lower borderline. The results of multilevel regression modeling run on data from Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS), Wave 25 show that, in line with previous research, the higher up are one’s aspirations, the lower is their satisfaction with life. Interestingly though, the exact mechanisms are rather different for individuals who have lived through the economic crisis of the 90-s full-aged and their younger compatriots. It was also found that social comparison with generalized other have a higher effect on one's subjective well-being than with specific income groups (the rich, middle class or the poor). Moreover, the negative effect of the aspiration level is alleviated by higher poverty rate in the region: the individuals experience lower reduction in life satisfaction if they are more financially deprived people around them.
Acknowledgments. This article is supported by the Russian Science Foundation, grant no. 18-18-00341 “Transformation of Values and Subjective Quality of Life: A Regional Perspective”.