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Direct Evidence on Income Comparisons and Subjective Well-Being

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  • Pannenberg, Markus
  • Goerke, Laszlo

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 has a strong negative effect on SWB. --

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Paper provided by Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association in its series Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order with number 79799.

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Date of creation: 2013
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Handle: RePEc:zbw:vfsc13:79799

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  1. 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.
  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. Budría, Santiago & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2012. "Income Comparisons and Non-Cognitive Skills," IZA Discussion Papers 6419, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Claudia Senik, 2008. "Direct evidence on income comparisons and their welfare effects," PSE Working Papers halshs-00588023, HAL.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
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  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2005. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(3), pages 963-1002, August.
  13. John Knight & Lina Song, 2007. "Subjective Well-being and its Determinants in Rural China," Economics Series Working Papers 334, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
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