Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login

The Marginal Utility of Income

Contents:

Author Info

  • Richard Layard
  • Guy Mayraz
  • Stephen J. Nickell

Abstract

In normative public economics it is crucial to know how fast the marginal utility of income declines as income increases. One needs this parameter for cost-benefit analysis, for optimal taxation and for the (Atkinson) measurement of inequality. We estimate this parameter using four large cross-sectional surveys of subjective happiness and two panel surveys. Altogether, the data cover over 50 countries and time periods between 1972 and 2005. In each of the six very different surveys, using a number of assumptions, we are able to estimate the elasticity of marginal utility with respect to income. We obtain very similar results from each survey. The highest (absolute) value is 1.34 and the lowest is 1.19, with a combined estimate of 1.26. The results are also very similar for subgroups in the population. We also examine whether these estimates (which are based directly on the scale of reported happiness) could be biased upwards if true utility is convex with respect to reported happiness. We find some evidence of such bias, but it is small-yielding a new estimated elasticity of 1.24 for the combined sample.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.63429.de/diw_sp0050.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) in its series SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research with number 50.

as in new window
Length: 25 p.
Date of creation: 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp50

Contact details of provider:
Postal: Mohrenstraße 58, D-10117 Berlin
Phone: xx49-30-89789-671
Fax: xx49-30-89789-109
Email:
Web page: http://www.diw.de/en/soep
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords: Marginal utility; income; life satisfaction; happiness; public economic; welfare; inequality; optimal taxation; reference-dependent preferences;

Other versions of this item:

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. Zvi Griliches & Jerry A. Hausman, 1984. "Errors in Variables in Panel Data," NBER Technical Working Papers 0037, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Rafael Di Tella & Robert J. MacCulloch & Andrew J. Oswald, 2003. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 809-827, November.
  3. John F. Helliwell, 2002. "How's Life? Combining Individual and National Variables to Explain Subjective Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 9065, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. Atkinson, Anthony B., 1970. "On the measurement of inequality," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 2(3), pages 244-263, September.
  6. Alma Cohen & Liran Einav, 2005. "Estimating Risk Preferences from Deductible Choice," NBER Working Papers 11461, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Raj Chetty, 2006. "A Bound on Risk Aversion Using Labor Supply Elasticities," NBER Working Papers 12067, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Matthew Rabin, 2000. "Risk Aversion and Expected-Utility Theory: A Calibration Theorem," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 68(5), pages 1281-1292, September.
  9. Thomas Dohmen & Armin Falk & David Huffman & Uwe Sunde & Jurgen Schupp & Gert Wagner, 2005. "Individual risk attitudes: New evidence from a large, representative, experimentally-validated survey," Framed Field Experiments 00140, The Field Experiments Website.
  10. 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.
  11. Young, H Peyton, 1990. "Progressive Taxation and Equal Sacrifice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(1), pages 253-66, March.
  12. 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).
  13. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-91, March.
  14. Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J., 2007. "Money and mental wellbeing: A longitudinal study of medium-sized lottery wins," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 49-60, January.
  15. Rajnish Mehra & Edward C. Prescott, 2003. "The Equity Premium in Retrospect," NBER Working Papers 9525, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2006. "Income and happiness: Evidence, explanations and economic implications," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590436, HAL.
  17. Hartley, Roger & Lanot, Gauthier & Walker, Ian, 2006. "Who really wants to be a millionaire? Estimates of risk aversion from gameshow data," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 747, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  18. Layard, R. & Mayraz, G. & Nickell, S., 2008. "The marginal utility of income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(8-9), pages 1846-1857, August.
  19. Blundell, Richard & Browning, Martin & Meghir, Costas, 1994. "Consumer Demand and the Life-Cycle Allocation of Household Expenditures," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(1), pages 57-80, January.
  20. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
  21. Blundell, Richard, 2006. "Earned income tax credit policies: Impact and optimality: The Adam Smith Lecture, 2005," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 423-443, August.
  22. Mehra, Rajnish & Prescott, Edward C., 1985. "The equity premium: A puzzle," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 145-161, March.
  23. Clark, Andrew E., 1999. "Are wages habit-forming? evidence from micro data," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 179-200, June.
  24. Oswald, Andrew J., 2005. "On the Common Claim that Happiness Equations Demonstrate Diminishing Marginal Utility of Income," IZA Discussion Papers 1781, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  25. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
  26. Metrick, Andrew, 1995. "A Natural Experiment in "Jeopardy!"," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 240-53, March.
  27. Mirrlees, James A, 1971. "An Exploration in the Theory of Optimum Income Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(114), pages 175-208, April.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

Citations

Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
This item has more than 25 citations. To prevent cluttering this page, these citations are listed on a separate page.

Lists

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
  1. SOEP based publications

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp50. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Bibliothek).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.