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Status, Affluence, and Inequality: Rank-Based Comparisons in Games of Status

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  • Ed Hopkins
  • Tatiana Kornienko

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

Paper provided by UCLA Department of Economics in its series Levine's Bibliography with number 122247000000001442.

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Date of creation: 31 Aug 2007
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levrem:122247000000001442

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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. Dhillon, Amrita & Herzog-Stein, Alexander, 2009. "Games of status and discriminatory contracts," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 105-123, January.
  3. 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.
  4. Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 1997. "On relative wealth effects and the optimality of growth," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 87-92, January.
  5. Hopkins, Ed & Kornienko, Tatiana, 2008. "Which Inequality? The Inequality of Endowments Versus the Inequality of Rewards," SIRE Discussion Papers 2008-13, Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE).
  6. Ed Hopkins, 2008. "Inequality, Happiness and Relative Concerns: What Actually is their Relationship?," ESE Discussion Papers 180, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Friedman, Daniel & Ostrov, Daniel N., 2008. "Conspicuous consumption dynamics," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 121-145, September.
  11. Benny Moldovanu & Aner Sela & Xianwen Shi, 2007. "Contests for Status," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 338-363.
  12. 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.
  13. Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 1999. "Pecuniary emulation, inequality and growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(9), pages 1665-1678, October.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. Luttmer, Erzo F. P., 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," Working Paper Series rwp04-029, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  17. 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).
  18. Giacomo Corneo, 2000. "The Efficient Side of Progressive Income Taxation," CESifo Working Paper Series 364, CESifo Group Munich.
  19. Hoppe, Heidrun C. & Moldovanu, Benny & Sela, Aner, 2006. "The Theory of Assortative Matching Based on Costly Signals," CEPR Discussion Papers 5543, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2001. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," CESifo Working Paper Series 503, CESifo Group Munich.
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Ed Hopkins, 2005. "Job Market Signalling of Relative Position, or Becker Married to Spence," ESE Discussion Papers 134, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  2. Bilancini, Ennio & Boncinelli, Leonardo, 2012. "Redistribution and the notion of social status," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(9-10), pages 651-657.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Ennio Bilancini & Simone D'Alessandro, 2011. "Long-run Welfare under Externalities in Consumption, Leisure, and Production: A Case for Happy Degrowth vs. Unhappy Growth," Center for Economic Research (RECent) 072, University of Modena and Reggio E., Dept. 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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