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Direct Evidence on Income Comparisons and Subjective Well-Being

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  • Laszlo Goerke

    ()
    (Institute for Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the EU, University of Trier)

  • Markus Pannenberg

    ()

Abstract

Subjective well-being (SWB) is generally argued to rise with relative income. However, direct evidence is scarce on whether and how intensively individuals undertake income comparisons, to whom they relate, and what they perceive their relative income to be. In this paper, novel data with direct information on income comparison intensity and perceived relative income with respect to predetermined reference groups is used to provide evidence on the relationship between income comparisons and SWB. We find negative correlations between comparison intensity and SWB for co-workers, people in the same occupation and friends. For job-related reference groups income comparisons are mostly upwards and perceiving to earn less than the reference group is negatively correlated with SWB.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute of Labour Law and Industrial Relations in the European Union (IAAEU) in its series IAAEU Discussion Papers with number 201303.

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Date of creation: Mar 2013
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Handle: RePEc:iaa:dpaper:201303

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Keywords: Income Comparisons; Endogenous Reference Groups; German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP); Subjective Well-Being;

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  1. Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 10667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Felix R. FitzRoy & Michael A. Nolan & Max F. Steinhardt & David Ulph, 2011. "So Far so Good: Age, Happiness, and Relative Income," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 415, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  3. Richard Layard & Guy Mayraz & Stephen Nickell, 2009. "Does Relative Income Matter?: Are the Critics Right?," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 210, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  4. 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.
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  6. Cahit Guven & Bent Sørensen, 2012. "Subjective Well-Being: Keeping Up with the Perception of the Joneses," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 109(3), pages 439-469, December.
  7. Senik, Claudia, 2007. "Direct Evidence on Income Comparisons and their Welfare Effects," IZA Discussion Papers 3195, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  8. 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.
  9. Santi Budria & Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell, 2012. "Income Comparisons and Non-cognitive Skills," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 441, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  10. Boyce, Christopher J. & Wood, Alex M., 2011. "Personality and the marginal utility of income: Personality interacts with increases in household income to determine life satisfaction," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 78(1-2), pages 183-191, April.
  11. Paul Frijters & Tony Beatton, 2008. "The mystery of the U-shaped relationship between happiness and age," NCER Working Paper Series 26, National Centre for Econometric Research.
  12. Gundi Knies, 2012. "Income Comparisons Among Neighbours and Satisfaction in East and West Germany," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 106(3), pages 471-489, May.
  13. McBride, Michael, 2001. "Relative-income effects on subjective well-being in the cross-section," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 251-278, July.
  14. Boyce, Christopher J. & Wood, Alex M., 2011. "Personality and the marginal utility of income: Personality interacts with increases in household income to determine life satisfaction," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 183-191.
  15. Budría, Santiago & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2012. "Income Comparisons and Non-Cognitive Skills," IZA Discussion Papers 6419, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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