Journal of Scientific Papers


© CSR, 2008-2019
ISSN 2071-789X

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  • General Founder and Publisher:

    Centre of Sociological Research


  • Publishing Partners:

    University of Szczecin (Poland)

    Széchenyi István University, (Hungary)

    Mykolas Romeris University (Lithuania)

    Alexander Dubcek University of Trencín (Slovak Republic)

  • Membership:

    American Sociological Association

    European Sociological Association

    World Economics Association (WEA)




Relative consumption with multiple reference points under uncertainty

Vol. 13, No 4, 2020

Kármen Kovács


University of Pécs, Faculty of Business and Economics

Pécs, Hungary


ORCID 0000-0002-5612-2037

Relative consumption with multiple reference points under uncertainty




Abstract. According to the behavioural economic perspective, an individual’s consumer utility derives not only from their absolute consumption but also how much they consume relative to others, that is, relative consumption matters. The purpose of this paper is to study relative consumption by focusing on social comparison, multiple reference points, and uncertainty related to the expectations about others’ future consumption. The model presented reflects the dynamics and intertemporal effects of relative consumption concerning consumer utility. The purpose of the model is to describe, by applying theoretical comparative analysis, how an individual’s consumer utility derived from relative consumption can change when their social reference points’ future absolute consumption level is uncertain. When an individual wants to improve or at least sustain their relative consumption in the future, they have to take into account and estimate the future absolute consumption levels of the persons belonging to their reference group. However, neighbours’ future consumption is usually uncertain, thus, the likely outcomes are illustrated with various cases. The study concludes that higher absolute consumption level not necessarily provides higher consumer utility when positional concerns matter. Further, despite investments in positional goods, the misprediction of others’ future absolute consumption level can result in lower social standing.


Received: November, 2019

1st Revision: September, 2020

Accepted: December, 2020


DOI: 10.14254/2071-789X.2020/13-4/4

JEL ClassificationD11, D91

Keywords: relative consumption, social comparison, social position, reference points, consumer utility model