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Well-Being Inequality and Reference Groups - An Agenda for New Research

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  • Bernard M.S. van Praag

    (University of Amsterdam)

Abstract

In this paper it is argued that subjective well-being of the individual depends on two types of variables. The first type consists of characteristics of the individual himself, such as age, health, income, etc. The second type of variables consists of the characteristics of the individuals belonging to his reference group. The vast literature about happiness, quality of life, and well-being informs us extensively about the effects of objective variables. How the second type affects well-being is much less investigated. It is argued that the concept of well-being inequality cannot be properly defined without taking the referencing process into account. The reference effect depends on how frequently individuals compare with others and on the degree of social transparency in society. We attempt to give a structural embedding of the idea of reference groups in SWB-models. In this paper we employ the reference-extended model for incorporating in happiness studies the concept of inequality in happiness or SWB. Finally, we plead for an extension of the present happiness paradigm by setting up a new additional agenda for empirical research in order to get quantified knowledge about the referencing process. As a first step we suggest a new question module to be included in new survey questionnaires. Accepted for publication in Journal of Economic Inequality .

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Tinbergen Institute in its series Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers with number 10-015/3.

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Date of creation: 28 Jan 2010
Date of revision: 03 Mar 2010
Handle: RePEc:dgr:uvatin:20100015

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Web page: http://www.tinbergen.nl

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Keywords: subjective well-being; happiness; inequality; reference group;

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References

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  1. Bernard M.S. Van Praag, 2010. "Well-being Inequality and Reference Groups - An Agenda for New Research," CESifo Working Paper Series 2984, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Christoph Wunder & Andrea Wiencierz & Johannes Schwarze & Helmut Küchenhoff & Sara Kleyer & Philipp Bleninger, 2009. "Well-Being over the Life Span: Semiparametric Evidence from British and German Longitudinal Data," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 889, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  3. Carol Graham & Andrew Felton, 2006. "Inequality and happiness: Insights from Latin America," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 4(1), pages 107-122, April.
  4. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "What can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," IEW - Working Papers 080, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  5. Easterlin, Richard A., 2006. "Life cycle happiness and its sources: Intersections of psychology, economics, and demography," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 463-482, August.
  6. Dolan, Paul & Peasgood, Tessa & White, Mathew, 2008. "Do we really know what makes us happy A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 94-122, February.
  7. Hagenaars, Aldi J M & van Praag, Bernard M S, 1985. "A Synthesis of Poverty Line Definitions," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 31(2), pages 139-54, June.
  8. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
  9. Senik, Claudia, 2007. "Direct Evidence on Income Comparisons and their Welfare Effects," IZA Discussion Papers 3195, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Praag, B.M.S. van & Herwaarden, F.G. van & Kapteyn, A.J., 1979. "The definition and measurement of social reference spaces," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-361904, Tilburg University.
  11. Clark, Andrew E. & Senik, Claudia, 2009. "Who Compares to Whom? The Anatomy of Income Comparisons in Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 4414, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. Wunder, Christoph & Wiencierz, Andrea & Schwarze, Johannes & Küchenhoff, Helmut & Kleyer, Sara & Bleninger, Philipp, 2009. "Well-Being over the Life Span: Semiparametric Evidence from British and German Longitudinal Data," IZA Discussion Papers 4155, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 10667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. 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.
  15. Christoph Wunder & Andrea Wiencierz & Johannes Schwarze & Helmut Küchenhoff & Sara Kleyer & Philipp Bleninger, 2009. "Well-Being over the Life Span: Semiparametric Evidence from British and German Longitudinal Data," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 179, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  16. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2002. "How important is Methodology for the Estimates of the Determinants of Happiness?," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 02-024/3, Tinbergen Institute.
  17. Alois Stutzer, . "The Role of Income Aspirations in Individual Happiness," IEW - Working Papers 124, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  18. Praag, B.M.S. van & Herwaarden, F.G. van & Kapteyn, A.J., 1978. "Individual welfare functions and social reference spaces," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-361901, Tilburg University.
  19. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Bernard Van Praag, 2003. "Income Satisfaction Inequality and its Causes," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 107-127, August.
  20. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
  21. Van Praag, Bernard M.S., 1977. "The perception of welfare inequality," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 189-207.
  22. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
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Blog mentions

As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
  1. Well-Being Inequality and Reference Groups – An Agenda for New Research
    by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2010-09-28 20:13:06
Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
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Cited by:
  1. Clark, Andrew E. & Flèche, Sarah & Senik, Claudia, 2012. "The Great Happiness Moderation," IZA Discussion Papers 6761, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Silber, Jacques & Verme, Paolo, 2012. "Relative deprivation, reference groups and the assessment of standard of living," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 31-45.
  3. Bernard M.S. Van Praag, 2010. "Well-being Inequality and Reference Groups - An Agenda for New Research," CESifo Working Paper Series 2984, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell, 2013. "Happiness economics," SERIEs, Spanish Economic Association, vol. 4(1), pages 35-60, March.
  5. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00707290 is not listed on IDEAS
  6. Cristina Bernini & Andrea Guizzardi & Giovanni Angelini, 2013. "DEA-Like Model and Common Weights Approach for the Construction of a Subjective Community Well-Being Indicator," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 114(2), pages 405-424, November.
  7. J.ntti, Markus & Kanbur, Ravi & Nyyss.l., Milla & Pirttil., Jukka, 2012. "Poverty and Welfare Measurement on the Basis of Prospect Theory," Working Paper Series UNU-WIDER Research Paper , World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
  8. Beja, Edsel Jr., 2012. "Yet, two more revisions to the Human Development Index," MPRA Paper 38939, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  9. Owen, Ann & Phillips, Anne, 2013. "Education, income, and the distribution of happiness," MPRA Paper 49387, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  10. Barbara Dluhosch & Daniel Horgos, 2013. "Trading Up the Happiness Ladder," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 113(3), pages 973-990, September.
  11. Lohmann, Steffen, 2013. "Information technologies and subjective well-being: Does the internet raise material aspirations?," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 169, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.
  12. Wen-Chun Chang, 2013. "Climbing up the Social Ladders: Identity, Relative Income, and Subjective Well-being," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 113(1), pages 513-535, August.

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