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Age, Life-satisfaction, and Relative Income – Insights from the UK and Germany

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  • Felix R., FitzRoy
  • Michael, Nolan
  • Max F., Steinhardt

Abstract

We first confirm previous results with the German Socio-Economic Panel by Layard et al. (2010), and obtain strong negative effects of comparison income. However, when we split the sample by age, we find quite different results for reference income. The effects on lifesatisfaction are positive and significant for those under 45, consistent with Hirschman’s (1973) ‘tunnel effect’, and only negative (and larger than in the full sample) for those over 45, when relative deprivation dominates. Thus for young respondents, reference income’s signalling role, indicating potential future prospects, can outweigh relative deprivation effects. Own-income effects are also larger for the older sample, and of greater magnitude than the comparison income effect. In East Germany the reference income effects are insignificant for all. With data from the British Household Panel Survey, we confirm standard results when encompassing all ages, but reference income loses significance in both age groups, and most surprisingly, even own income becomes insignificant for those over 45, while education has significant negative effects.

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Paper provided by Scottish Institute for Research in Economics (SIRE) in its series SIRE Discussion Papers with number 2013-51.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:edn:sirdps:478

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Keywords: subjective life-satisfaction; comparison income; reference groups; age; welfare;

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  1. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 66(8), pages 1733-1749, April.
  2. Boyce, Christopher J. & Brown, Gordon D.A., 2008. "Income Rank and Upward Comparisons," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 883, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  3. Claudia Senik, 2007. "Ambition and jealousy. Income interactions in the "Old" Europe versus the "New" Europe and the United States," PSE Working Papers halshs-00590828, HAL.
  4. Andrew E. Clark & Nicolai Kristensen & Niels Westergård-Nielsen, 2007. "Job satisfaction and co-worker wages: Status or signal?," PSE Working Papers halshs-00587878, HAL.
  5. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2005. "Income and well-being: an empirical analysis of the comparison income effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 997-1019, June.
  6. Hirschman, Albert O., 1973. "The changing tolerance for income inequality in the course of economic development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 1(12), pages 29-36, December.
  7. 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).
  8. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2004. "How Important is Methodology for the estimates of the determinants of Happiness?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 641-659, 07.
  9. Drichoutis, Andreas C. & Nayga Jr., Rodolfo M. & Lazaridis, Panagiotis, 2010. "Do reference values matter? Some notes and extensions on "income and happiness across Europe"," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 479-486, August.
  10. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
  11. Richard Layard & Guy Mayraz & Stephen Nickell, 2009. "Does relative income matter? Are the critics right?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 28594, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  12. Hirschman, Albert O & Rothschild, Michael, 1973. "The Changing Tolerance for Income Inequality in the Course of Economic Development; with a Mathematical Appendix," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(4), pages 544-66, November.
  13. 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.
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  1. Inequality, happiness & age
    by chris dillow in Stumbling and Mumbling on 2011-11-28 15:11:40
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Cited by:
  1. Felix FitzRoy & Michael Nolan & Max Steinhardt & David Ulph, 2013. "Testing the Tunnel Effect: Comparison, Age and Happiness in UK and German Panels," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 201304, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews.
  2. Akay, Alpaslan & Martinsson, Peter, 2012. "Positional Concerns through the Life Cycle: Evidence from Subjective Well-Being Data and Survey Experiments," IZA Discussion Papers 6342, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Grund, Christian & Martin, Johannes, 2012. "Monetary Reference Points of Managers: An Empirical Investigation of Status Quo Preferences and Social Comparisons," IZA Discussion Papers 7097, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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