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Status, affluence, and inequality: Rank-based comparisons in games of status

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  • Hopkins, Ed
  • Kornienko, Tatiana

Abstract

We examine the effects of changes in the income distribution in an economy where agents' utility depends both on consumption and on their rank in the distribution of conspicuous consumption. We introduce a new methodology to compare the behavior of agents that occupy the same rank in the two different income distributions but typically have different levels of incomes. Here, an increase in incomes of the least endowed improves their welfare, yet it also increases social competition, making those in the middle to be worse off--even if they have higher incomes as well. As social competition can be lowered by spreading agents apart in income space, we find that an increase in incomes for all, augmented by (weakly) increased income dispersion, constitutes a sufficient condition for Pareto-improvement. We also show that one can have an increase both in income and relative position but still be worse off.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Games and Economic Behavior.

Volume (Year): 67 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (November)
Pages: 552-568

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Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:67:y:2009:i:2:p:552-568

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622836

Related research

Keywords: Status Relative standing Conspicuous consumption Consumption externalities Income inequality Social competitiveness First price auctions Dispersive orderings;

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References

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  1. Clark, Andrew E. & Frijters, Paul & Shields, Michael A., 2007. "Relative Income, Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," IZA Discussion Papers 2840, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2010. "Which Inequality? The Inequality of Endowments versus the Inequality of Rewards," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 106-37, August.
  3. Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 1999. "Pecuniary emulation, inequality and growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(9), pages 1665-1678, October.
  4. Cole, Harold L & Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1992. "Social Norms, Savings Behavior, and Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1092-1125, December.
  5. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2001. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," CESifo Working Paper Series 503, CESifo Group Munich.
  6. Maskin, Eric & Riley, John, 2003. "Uniqueness of equilibrium in sealed high-bid auctions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 395-409, November.
  7. Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela & Xianwen Shi, 2007. "Contests for Status," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 338-363.
  8. Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 10667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Ed Hopkins, 2008. "Inequality, Happiness and Relative Concerns: What Actually is their Relationship?," ESE Discussion Papers 180, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  10. Brown, Gordon D. A. & Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J. & Qian, Jing, 2005. "Does Wage Rank Affect Employees' Wellbeing?," IZA Discussion Papers 1505, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2004. "Running to Keep in the Same Place: Consumer Choice as a Game of Status," ESE Discussion Papers 92, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  12. Senik, Claudia, 2004. "When information dominates comparison: Learning from Russian subjective panel data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2099-2123, August.
  13. Wilkinson, Richard G & Pickett, Kate E., 2006. "Income inequality and population health: A review and explanation of the evidence," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(7), pages 1768-1784, April.
  14. Hoppe, Heidrun C. & Moldovanu, Benny & Sela, Aner, 2005. "The Theory of Assortative Matching Based on Costly Signals," Discussion Paper Series of SFB/TR 15 Governance and the Efficiency of Economic Systems 85, Free University of Berlin, Humboldt University of Berlin, University of Bonn, University of Mannheim, University of Munich.
  15. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1998. "Comparison-concave utility and following behaviour in social and economic settings," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 133-155, October.
  16. Pradeep Dubey & John Geanakoplos, 2005. "Grading in Games of Status: Marking Exams and Setting Wages," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1544, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  17. Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 1997. "On relative wealth effects and the optimality of growth," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 87-92, January.
  18. Dhillon, Amrita & Herzog-Stein, Alexander, 2006. "Games of Status and Discrininatory Contract," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 759, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  19. Pradeep Dubey & John Geanakoplos, 2004. "Grading Exams: 100, 99, ..., 1 or A, B, C? Incentives in Games of Status," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1467, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  20. Frank, Robert H, 1985. "The Demand for Unobservable and Other Nonpositional Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 101-16, March.
  21. Corneo, Giacomo, 2002. "The efficient side of progressive income taxation," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(7), pages 1359-1368, July.
  22. Cooper, Ben & Garcia-Penalosa, Cecilia & Funk, Peter, 2001. "Status Effects and Negative Utility Growth," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 642-65, July.
  23. Pradeep Dubey & John Geanakoplos, 2005. "Grading in Games of Status: Marking Exams and Setting Wages," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1544, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University, revised Dec 2005.
  24. Robson, Arthur J, 1992. "Status, the Distribution of Wealth, Private and Social Attitudes to Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 837-57, July.
  25. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  26. Friedman, Daniel & Ostrov, Daniel N., 2008. "Conspicuous consumption dynamics," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 121-145, September.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Ed Hopkins, 2008. "Inequality, happiness and relative concerns: What actually is their relationship?," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 6(4), pages 351-372, December.
  2. Ennio Bilancini & Leonardo Boncinelli, 2008. "Redistribution and the Notion of Social Status," Center for Economic Research (RECent) 029, University of Modena and Reggio E., Dept. of Economics.
  3. Bilancini, Ennio & D'Alessandro, Simone, 2012. "Long-run welfare under externalities in consumption, leisure, and production: A case for happy degrowth vs. unhappy growth," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 194-205.
  4. Ed Hopkins, 2012. "Job Market Signaling Of Relative Position, Or Becker Married To Spence," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 290-322, 04.
  5. Rogério Mazali & José Rodrigues-Neto, 2011. "Dress to Impress: Brands as Status Symbols," ANU Working Papers in Economics and Econometrics 2011-567, Australian National University, College of Business and Economics, School of Economics.
  6. Thomas Aronsson & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2013. "Veblen’s theory of the leisure class revisited: implications for optimal income taxation," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 41(3), pages 551-578, September.

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