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It Is Better to Be the Head of a Chicken than the Tail of a Phoenix? A Study of Concern for Relative Standing in Rural China

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  • Carlsson, Fredrik
  • Qin, Ping

Abstract

This paper examines the concern for relative standing among rural households in China. We used a survey-experimental method to measure to what extent poor Chinese farmers care about their relative income and found that the respondents cared to a high degree. Compared to previous studies in developed countries, the concern for relative standing seems to be equally strong among rural households in China. This should be seen in the light of the rapid change China has undergone, with high growth, increased inequality, and the highest urban-rural income ratio in the world. Thus, the rural population, which is lagging behind, is suffering not only from low absolute income but also from low relative income.

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Paper provided by Resources For the Future in its series Discussion Papers with number dp-08-33-efd.

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Date of creation: 15 Nov 2008
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Handle: RePEc:rff:dpaper:dp-08-33-efd

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Keywords: Relative standing; China; inequality;

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  1. J. Solnick, Sara & Hemenway, David, 1998. "Is more always better?: A survey on positional concerns," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 373-383, November.
  2. Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Martinsson, Peter, 2006. "Honestly, why are you driving a BMW?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 129-146, June.
  3. Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Martinsson, Peter, 2003. "Do You Enjoy Having More Than Others? Survey Evidence of Positional Goods," Working Papers in Economics 100, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  4. 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.
  5. Geeta Kingdon & John Knight, 2005. "Community, Comparisons and Subjective Well-being in a Divided Society," Working Papers 05095, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
  6. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2005. "How much do we care about absolute versus relative income and consumption?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 405-421, March.
  7. Markus Knell, . "Social Comparisons, Inequality, and Growth," IEW - Working Papers 005, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  8. Fredrik Carlsson & Pham Khanh Nam & Martin Linde-Rahr & Peter Martinsson, 2007. "Are Vietnamese farmers concerned with their relative position in society?," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(7), pages 1177-1188.
  9. Chang, Gene H., 2002. "The cause and cure of China's widening income disparity," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 13(4), pages 335-340, December.
  10. Fredrik Carlsson & Gautam Gupta & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2009. "Keeping up with the Vaishyas? Caste and relative standing in India," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(1), pages 52-73, January.
  11. Brown, Philip H. & Bulte, Erwin & Zhang, Xiaobo, 2010. "Positional spending and status seeking in rural China," IFPRI discussion papers 983, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  12. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2010. "Who cares about relative deprivation?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 171-185, February.
  13. Olof Johansson-Stenman & Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala, 2002. "Measuring Future Grandparents" Preferences for Equality and Relative Standing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 362-383, April.
  14. Solnick, Sara J. & Hong, Li & Hemenway, David, 2007. "Positional goods in the United States and China," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 36(4), pages 537-545, August.
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