Ronald P. Hill, PhD, The Richard J. and Barbara Naclerio Endowed Chair in Business Professor, Marketing
Consumers in wealthy communities tend to compete with and compare themselves to their peers when it comes to material goods—your neighbor, for example, buys a Porsche, so your BMW needs to be replaced. Matching pace financially with those around us, it seems, is a game of affluence.
VSB Professor of Marketing Ronald Hill, however, discovered an unexpected twist: peer comparisons are more prominent and more impactful among the poor. New research by Professor Hill showsthat social comparisons are more powerful determinants in life satisfaction for people in poorer, developing societies than for people in more affluent nations. His research revealed that, perhaps not surprisingly, people in poorer
countries are more dissatisfied with their lives than those in wealthier countries.
Hill’s research further suggests that people in poorer countries who make downward social comparisons are more satisfied with their lives than individuals making upward social comparisons. In less developed regions, individuals who believe they are worse off than their peers are less satisfied with their lives than their counterparts in wealthier nations. According to Hill, marketers need to understand that the poor have some similar attitudes and aspirations as wealthier consumers.
Professor Hill is the editor of the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing and holds editorial positions with the Journal of Consumer Affairs and the Journal of Macromarketing. His research has been published in these journals and others, including the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Marketing Research, and the Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. Hill won the 2010 Richard W. Pollay Prize from the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, a lifetime achievement award given annually to recognize intellectual excellence in the study of marketing in the public interest.
Shining a New Light on Poverty
The concept of “keeping up with the Joneses” is usually associated with wealth.