Social Comparisons, Inequality, and Growth
AbstractOver the recent years one could repeatedly hear the claim that a rising concern for relative standing (in terms of consumption) was partly responsible for the decline in household savings and in growth that could be observed in some developed countries (particularly in the US) and that the rise in income inequality had further aggravated this process.In this paper we want to analyze under which conditions (concerning the importance of social comparisons for peoples' behavior and their choice of reference groups) this claim is valid. We show that an increase in a societies' concern for relative standing aggravates a negative impact of inequality on growth if two conditions are fulfilled: individuals have a higher concern for their present than for their future relative standing and individuals have a tendency to find their reference groups among people that are wealthier then they are themselves. Empirical data suggest that the negative impact of inequality on growth is stronger in highly developed economies. This is compatible with the explanation that is presented in this paper if individuals living in highly developed countries are more likely to have a high concern for relative standing. We will argue (using research on the cultural consequences of economic development) that this is a reasonable assumption to make.
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 Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich in its series IEW - Working Papers with number 005.
Date of creation:
Date of revision:
Income inequality; Growth; Consumption externalities;
Other versions of this item:
- Markus Knell, 1999. "Social Comparisons, Inequality, and Growth," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 155(4), pages 664-, December.
- E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
- O40 - Economic Development, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General
- D30 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - General
This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Yoram Weiss & Chaim Fershtman, 1997.
"Social Status and Economic Performance: A Survey,"
University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State
139, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
- Galor, Oded & Zeira, Joseph, 1993.
"Income Distribution and Macroeconomics,"
Review of Economic Studies,
Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(1), pages 35-52, January.
- Glaeser, Edward L. & Scheinkman, JoseA. & Shleifer, Andrei, 1995.
"Economic growth in a cross-section of cities,"
Journal of Monetary Economics,
Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 117-143, August.
- Edward L. Glaeser & Jose A. Scheinkman & Andrei Shleifer, 1995. "Economic Growth in a Cross-Section of Cities," NBER Working Papers 5013, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Glaeser, E.L. & Scheinkman, J.A., 1993. "Economic Growth in a Cross-Section of Cities," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1645, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
- Hongyi Li & Lyn Squire & Tao Zhang & Heng-fu Zou, 1999.
"A Data Set on Income Distribution,"
CEMA Working Papers
575, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
- Layard, Richard, 1980. "Human Satisfactions and Public Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(363), pages 737-50, December.
- Boskin, Michael J & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1978. "Optimal Redistributive Taxation when Individual Welfare Depends upon Relative Income," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 589-601, November.
- Paul M Romer, 1999.
"Increasing Returns and Long-Run Growth,"
Levine's Working Paper Archive
2232, David K. Levine.
- Bakshi, Gurdip S & Chen, Zhiwu, 1996. "The Spirit of Capitalism and Stock-Market Prices," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(1), pages 133-57, March.
- Klaus Deininger & Lyn Squire, 1996.
"A New Data Set Measuring Income Inequality,"
CEMA Working Papers
512, China Economics and Management Academy, Central University of Finance and Economics.
- Banerjee, Abhijit V & Newman, Andrew F, 1991.
"Risk-Bearing and the Theory of Income Distribution,"
Review of Economic Studies,
Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(2), pages 211-35, April.
- Abhijit Banerjee & Andrew F. Newman, 1989. "Risk-Bearing and the Theory of Income Distribution," Discussion Papers 877, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
- Kapteyn, A. & Van De Ger, S. & Van De Stadt, H. & Wansbeek, T., 1989.
"Interdependent Preferences: An Econometric Analysis,"
8954, Tilburg - Center for Economic Research.
- Kapteyn, Arie, et al, 1997. "Interdependent Preferences: An Econometric Analysis," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(6), pages 665-86, Nov.-Dec..
- Kapteyn, A. & Geer, S. van der & Stadt, H. van de & Wansbeek, T., 1997. "Interdependent preferences: An econometric analysis," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-74366, Tilburg University.
- Kapteyn, A.J. & Geer, S. van de & Stadt, H. van de & Wansbeek, T., 1984. "Interdependent preferences: An econometric analysis," Research Memorandum 140, Tilburg University, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration.
- 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.
- Bernheim, B Douglas, 1994. "A Theory of Conformity," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 841-77, October.
- Christopher D Carroll & Jody Overland & David N Weil, 1997.
"Comparison Utility in a Growth Model,"
Economics Working Paper Archive
387, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
- Persson, T. & Tabellini, G., 1993.
"Is Inequality Harmful for Growth,"
537, Stockholm - International Economic Studies.
- Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1994.
"Satisfaction and comparison income,"
CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange)
- Johansson-Stenman, Olof & Carlsson, Fredrik & Daruvala, Dinky, 2001. "Measuring Hypothetical Grandparents Preferences For Equality And Relative Standings," Working Papers in Economics 42, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
- Psacharopoulos, George, 1994.
"Returns to investment in education: A global update,"
Elsevier, vol. 22(9), pages 1325-1343, September.
- Psacharopoulos, George, 1993. "Returns to investment in education : a global update," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1067, The World Bank.
- Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 1997. "Conspicuous consumption, snobbism and conformism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 55-71, October.
- Bertola, Giuseppe, 1993.
"Factor Shares and Savings in Endogenous Growth,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1184-98, December.
- Cole, Harold L & Mailath, George J & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1992. "Social Norms, Savings Behavior, and Growth," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1092-1125, December.
- Tornell, Aaron & Velasco, Andes, 1992. "The Tragedy of the Commons and Economic Growth: Why Does Capital Flow from Poor to Rich Countries?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(6), pages 1208-31, December.
- van de Stadt, Huib & Kapteyn, Arie & van de Geer, Sara, 1985.
"The Relativity of Utility: Evidence from Panel Data,"
The Review of Economics and Statistics,
MIT Press, vol. 67(2), pages 179-87, May.
- Stadt, H. van de & Geer, S.A. van de & Kapteyn, A.J., 1985. "The relativity of utility: Evidence from panel data," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-364325, Tilburg University.
- Knack, Stephen & Keefer, Philip, 1997. "Does Social Capital Have an Economic Payoff? A Cross-Country Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1251-88, November.
- Frank, Robert H, 1985. "The Demand for Unobservable and Other Nonpositional Goods," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 101-16, March.
- Bagwell, Laurie Simon & Bernheim, B Douglas, 1996. "Veblen Effects in a Theory of Conspicuous Consumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 349-73, June.
- Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1998. "Comparison-concave utility and following behaviour in social and economic settings," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 133-155, October.
- Greif, Avner, 1994. "Cultural Beliefs and the Organization of Society: A Historical and Theoretical Reflection on Collectivist and Individualist Societies," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(5), pages 912-50, October.
- Fershtman, C. & Murphy, K.M., 1993.
"Social Status, Education and Growth,"
8-93, Tel Aviv.
- Frank, Robert H, 1984. "Are Workers Paid Their Marginal Products?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(4), pages 549-71, September.
- Benhabib, Jess & Rustichini, Aldo, 1996. " Social Conflict and Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 125-42, March.
- Perotti, Roberto, 1993. "Political Equilibrium, Income Distribution, and Growth," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(4), pages 755-76, October.
- Loewenstein, George & Thaler, Richard H, 1989. "Intertemporal Choice," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 3(4), pages 181-93, Fall.
- Samuel Bowles, 1998. "Endogenous Preferences: The Cultural Consequences of Markets and Other Economic Institutions," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 75-111, March.
This item has more than 25 citations. To prevent cluttering this page, these citations are listed on a separate page. reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.Access and download statisticsgeneral information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Marita Kieser).
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.