Monday, January 3, 2022

Subjective well-being appears to be higher in rural than in urban communities, probably because of the strong association between unmet aspirations (which are higher in cities) and lower satisfaction with life

Unmet Aspirations and Urban Malaise. Tomas Hanell. Social Indicators Research, Jan 3 2022.

Abstract: This article analyses the gap between human aspirations concerning self-enhancement and corresponding outcomes in ten western European countries. Utilizing individual data for 14,300 respondents from the European Social Survey, four self-enhancement gap metrics are created: (1) the Ambition gap; (2) the Success gap; (3) the Wealth gap; and (4) the Authority gap. The findings suggest that subjective well-being (SWB) appears to be higher in rural than in urban communities. One reason for lower SWB among urban residents relates to their higher aspirations in certain areas of life. However, urban areas are apparently able to meet the financial expectations of their inhabitants far better than rural areas are, whereas an unmet craving for, e.g., success in rural areas appears not to affect SWB at all. Overall, there is a strong association between unmet aspirations and lower satisfaction with life. The added value of this paper is that it goes beyond existing explanations of the reasons behind urban malaise in developed economies.

Discussion and Conclusion

In line with aspiration-level theory, this analysis has demonstrated that the better a person’s aspirations are fulfilled, the higher is his or her overall satisfaction with life. The analysis has also demonstrated that inhabitants of 32 major metropolitan regions in ten western European countries have substantially higher aspirations when it comes to self-enhancement than do their more rural counterparts. However, the level of fulfilment of these aspirations is also generally higher among these urban residents. The analysis has ultimately demonstrated that the discrepancy between aspirations and outcome affects overall assessments of subjectively reported SWB more strongly in highly urbanized areas than it does in less urbanized surroundings. The primary scientific contribution of this paper is thus that it indicates that such urban–rural differences should be added to currently dominant explanations for the phenomenon of urban malaise. In a theoreticized manner, Fig. 1 illustrates the relationship between an aspiration-outcome gap on the one hand and resulting urban–rural differences in SWB on the other.

Fig. 1 Differing rural and urban aspiration gaps and their impact on SWB,

This simple analytic model however assumes that the outcome-aspiration-SWB vector would be linear. In reality, it appears plausible to assume that these gradients would be of a logarithmic nature adhering to the process of decreasing marginal utility. This issue thus calls for further research with emphasis on non-linear techniques.

Human aspirations are most likely policy amenable only to a very marginal degree. Fostering less ambition among urban inhabitants or migrants to cities by means of public campaigns, or nurturing more “rural” values in urban communities, appears to be an extremely implausible path of development. Amplified urban aspiration levels should thus probably be considered an inherent principle of nature guiding urban life. They could be viewed on a par with aspects such as age or gender, which have a strong impact on SWB, but are utterly difficult to directly address by public policy. Accordingly, it would probably be more feasible for public policy to try to pay attention to the outcome levels instead, thereby diminishing the gap. However, whereas public policy doubtlessly would be able to affect the wealth outcome of urban residents, it remains equally uncertain what it could do about the remaining three self-enhancement outcomes (ambition, success, authority). At the least, however, it would be important to acknowledge that although the city—travestying Glaeser (2011)—might make us richer, smarter, healthier, or even greener, it does not necessarily make us happier too and, apparently, not more satisfied with our lives either.

The issue of causality calls for attention. Based on the analysis herein, it is not possible to establish a clear causal direction between the level of aspiration fulfilment and urban environments. It may well be that cities act as magnets for persons with high aspirations in certain areas of life, thus aggravating the discrepancy. However, it may equally well be that the billboards, the neon lights, or the popular cultural image of cities in themselves are the cause of higher aspirations. Utilizing the vocabulary of Ballas and Tranmer (2012:p. 94), quality of life might be dependent not only on the contextual setting of the community, “something about the place”, but also on “the characteristics of its inhabitants”. As an indication of the latter—concentrating specifically on persons migrating from rural to urban areas—Cardoso et al. (2019), for example, argued that one reason for lower SWB among such migrants can be attributed to the effect that several cognitive biases exert on creating overoptimistic expectations concerning the outcome of their move.

However, some recent findings also support the notion that location has an impact on the SWB of its inhabitants. In the developed world, the prevailing neoliberal dogma based on preference fulfilment through consumption choices is more closely related to urban communities than more rural ones (Oliveira et al., 2019). Examining data for approximately a million European citizens across 27 nations and over three decades, Michel et al. (2019) found robust evidence of a negative correlation between the amount of advertising and the level of life satisfaction. Advertising creates a mental demand, which, according to the hedonic treadmill theory, in the long run is likely to remain unfulfilled.

Although there are few specific indications as to whether urban inhabitants are more exposed to advertising than rural ones, at least out-of-home advertising (i.e. printed or digital billboards) could be expected to be more of an urban concern. Also, online shopping still appears to be a predominantly urban phenomenon (Beckers et al., 2018; Farag et al., 2006), exposing urban residents more than their rural counterparts to digital advertising.

Recently, the well-established regulatory focus theory has also been used for establishing causality between settlement size and human behaviour. Stemming from psychology, the regulatory focus theory states that human goals are guided by two opposing motivating systems: promotion and prevention. Persons motivated by promotion goals focus on growth and accomplishment and tend to take risks. Persons motivated by prevention goals are risk aversive and focus on safety and security. Ross and Portugali (2018) applied this theory in a large vs. small city context and found that a large city affects a person’s behaviour so that it intensifies both motivating systems, depending on the individual’s personal regulatory focus. As they were, furthermore, able to demonstrate clear causality, i.e., that the size of the city affects the regulatory system and not the other way around, this might also constitute a tentative explanation for why urbanites have a tendency to aspire to more.

The issue of aggravated urban expectations would benefit from further interest from the scientific community. An examination of the degree of fulfilment of spheres of human aspirations other than mere self-enhancement, such as benevolence, security or conformity, might shed additional light on why rural residents tend to report higher SWB than do urban ones. In a technical sense, longitudinal analysis is needed so as to overcome the gap between present expectations and future outcome.

Perhaps even more importantly, there is a need to address inequality. The prevailing public policy discourse excessively stresses both the necessity and the societal benefits of urbanization (cf. Brenner & Schmid, 2015; Gleeson, 2014; Soininvaara, 2020). This discourse, however, generally departs from an aggregated point of view where average performances across different types of settlements are compared. This study also falls into that category. However, as pointed out above, the positional treadmill—where people tend to compare their lives against those of others in their vicinity—exerts a strong influence on SWB. Also, in terms of fulfilled aspirations, some people get what they desire, whereas others do not. Since socioeconomic differences in general tend to be larger in urban areas, it could also be expected that the amplitude of disparity among urban inhabitants in terms of aspirations and meeting them is much larger than is the case in rural surroundings. Hence, examining not only the levels of aspiration fulfilment across different types of settlements on average, but also considering intra-regional disparities of that very same nature, may additionally clarify reasons behind urban malaise.

Food over-purchase: Children apply pressure on their parents to impulse buy promoted products, have fussy eating behaviours, and frequently change preferences; their selective eating behaviours and preferences cause food over-provisioning

Food Waste in Households: Children as Quiet Powerhouses. Monika Kansal et al. Food Quality and Preference, January 3 2022, 104524.


• Children often hold significant power around what food is purchased and eaten.

• Eating habits of children can interfere with parents’ well-intentioned plans.

• Parents are conflicted with needing children to eat and their desire for healthy food.

• Supermarkets encourage impulse buying by targeting children with appealing promotions.

Abstract: This study reports parents’ perceptions about children’s influence on the generation of household food by collecting qualitative data from 15 focus groups of Australian householders from five culturally diverse communities. Key findings include food over-purchase to some extent results from children applying pressure on their parents to impulse buy supermarkets promoted products, fussy eating behaviours, and frequently changing preferences. Children’s selective eating behaviours and preferences also cause food over-preparation and over-provisioning by parents. This study also identified that campaigns promoting imperfect shaped fruit and vegetables tend to be less effective with children as they desire perfect shaped fresh produce. We also identified that migrant communities tend to face the added complication of balancing traditional food for adults with their children requesting Australian foods. Our research presents policy implications in identifying children as quiet powerhouses in Australian households and suggests the need for targeted interventions to change children’s food behaviour. Additionally, parents need to mirror these interventions in their households to reinforce desired changes in their children’s food behaviours. There is also an opportunity for supermarkets, local councils and government agencies to redesign their marketing campaigns to educate children and parents about reducing food waste.

Keywords: Household Food wasteChildrenparentsAustraliamulti-community perspective