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Why Status Effects Need not Justify Egalitarian Income Policy


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  • Graafland, J.J.

    (Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research)


Economic research overwhelmingly shows that the utility individuals derive from their income depends on the incomes of others. Theoretical literature has proven that these status effects imply a more egalitarian income policy than in the conventional case, in which people value their income independently from the income of others. This article qualifies this conclusion in three ways. First, this policy implication holds if low income groups are sensitive to status, but not if high income groups are predominantly so. Neither do status effects provide an economic rational for egalitarian income policy if they only pertain to peer groups with similar income levels. Third, if status effects are grounded in vices like envy, jealousy, grudgingness or spite, a moral basis for egalitarian income policy is lacking, because distributive justice cannot be based on perverse preferences.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research in its series Discussion Paper with number 2010-73.

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Date of creation: 2010
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Handle: RePEc:dgr:kubcen:201073

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Keywords: relative income; positional goods; optimal taxation; egalitarian income policy; redistribution; status effects; envy;

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  1. Olof Johansson-Stenman & Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala, 2002. "Measuring Future Grandparents" Preferences for Equality and Relative Standing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 362-383, April.
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