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Envy, leisure, and restrictions on working hours

  • Francisco Alvarez-Cuadrado

We present a simple model of capital accumulation where agents care about their consumption relative to the consumption of other members of society, `envy,' In this context we quantify the extent of the distortions and welfare costs associated with envy. Under conservative estimates of envy we find that the implied welfare losses are substantial. We explore the implications of alternative policy arrangements designed to minimize the effects of the consumption externality. Our results suggest that if the optimal tax policy is not politically feasible, restrictions on working hours provide an alternative tool to induce a market outcome that resembles the efficient allocation achieved under a benevolent central planner.

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Article provided by Canadian Economics Association in its journal Canadian Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 40 (2007)
Issue (Month): 4 (November)
Pages: 1286-1310

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Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:40:y:2007:i:4:p:1286-1310
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  1. Gali, Jordi, 1994. "Keeping Up with the Joneses: Consumption Externalities, Portfolio Choice, and Asset Prices," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 26(1), pages 1-8, February.
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  6. Fisher, Walter H. & Hof, Franz X., 2000. "Relative Consumption and Endogenous Labour Supply in the Ramsey Model: Do Status-Conscious People Work Too Much?," Economics Series 85, Institute for Advanced Studies.
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  12. John Y. Campbell & John Cochrane, 1999. "Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 205-251, April.
  13. Blundell, Richard & Macurdy, Thomas, 1999. "Labor supply: A review of alternative approaches," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 27, pages 1559-1695 Elsevier.
  14. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2001. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," CESifo Working Paper Series 503, CESifo Group Munich.
  15. John Y. Campbell & John H. Cochrane, 1995. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," NBER Working Papers 4995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. 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.
  17. Altonji, Joseph G, 1986. "Intertemporal Substitution in Labor Supply: Evidence from Micro Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(3), pages S176-S215, June.
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  19. James J. Heckman & Thomas E. Macurdy, 1980. "A Life Cycle Model of Female Labour Supply," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(1), pages 47-74.
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