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From houses to wages, it's time we realised that size isn't everything

4 16 0

Among our nation’s many long-term property woes is that British homes are not only becoming less affordable, they’re also getting smaller. However, news from over the pond suggests shoebox living may not be a problem after all. In the US, average house sizes have been growing but satisfaction with them has remained flat. Bigger just means bigger; it doesn’t mean better.

It’s just one study, but on this occasion the usual academic caveat of “more research is needed” is, well, not needed. Psychologists already know that we are compulsive comparators. Improvements to our own fortune don’t have any lasting effect unless they make us better off than those around us, not just better off than we were. Indeed, we often feel worse if we get more but see peers get even more still.

These findings are as close to incontrovertible as you can get in a field as contentious as psychology. What we make of them, however, is very much a matter of dispute.

From the left, it’s proof that inequality is bad for human wellbeing. Therefore we should do more to manage markets so that they don’t result in large differences in wealth. Unfettered capitalism simply puts us in a race of competitive consumption that the majority are doomed to lose. Better to share the pie more widely than to constantly strive to grow it.

The right agrees that........

© The Guardian