Relative Income, Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles
AbstractThe well-known Easterlin paradox points out that average happiness has remained constant over time despite sharp rises in GNP per head. At the same time, a micro literature has typically found positive correlations between individual income and individual measures of subjective well-being. This paper suggests that these two findings are consistent with the presence of relative income terms in the utility function. Income may be evaluated relative to others (social comparison) or to oneself in the past (habituation). We review the evidence on relative income from the subjective well-being literature. We also discuss the relation (or not) between happiness and utility and discuss some non-happiness research (behavioural, experimental, neurological) dealing with income comparisons. We last consider how relative income in the utility function affects economic models of behaviour in a number of different domains.
Download InfoIf 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.
Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2840.
Length: 68 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Economic Literature, 2008, 46 (1), 95-144
Contact details of provider:
Postal: IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page: http://www.iza.org
Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany
Other versions of this item:
- 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.
- D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
- D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
- H00 - Public Economics - - General - - - General
- I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
- J28 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Safety; Job Satisfaction; Related Public Policy
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
- NEP-ALL-2007-07-07 (All new papers)
- NEP-CBE-2007-07-07 (Cognitive & Behavioural Economics)
- NEP-HAP-2007-07-07 (Economics of Happiness)
- NEP-LTV-2007-07-07 (Unemployment, Inequality & Poverty)
- NEP-NEU-2007-07-07 (Neuroeconomics)
- NEP-SOC-2007-07-07 (Social Norms & Social Capital)
You can help add them by filling out this form.
Blog mentionsAs found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
This item has more than 25 citations. To prevent cluttering this page, these citations are listed on a separate page. reading lists or Wikipedia pages:
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mark Fallak).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.