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Relativity, Rank and the Utility of Income

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  • MatthewD. Rablen

Abstract

Relative utility has become an important concept in several disjoint areas of economics. I present a cardinal model of income utility based on the supposition that agents care about their rank in the income distribution and that utility is subject to adaptation over time. Utility levels correspond to the Leyden Individual Welfare Function while utility differences yield a version of the prospect theory value function, thereby providing a new and shared derivation of each. I offer an explanation of some long-standing paradoxes in the wellbeing literature and an insight into the links between relative comparisons and loss aversion. Copyright © 2008 The Author(s).

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  • MatthewD. Rablen, 2008. "Relativity, Rank and the Utility of Income," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 118(528), pages 801-821, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:118:y:2008:i:528:p:801-821
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    2. Piekalkiewicz, Marcin, 2016. "Money, Social Capital and Materialism. Evidence from Happiness Data," EconStor Preprints 130185, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    3. Carter, Steven & McBride, Michael, 2013. "Experienced utility versus decision utility: Putting the ‘S’ in satisfaction," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 42(C), pages 13-23.
    4. Leive, Adam, 2018. "Dying to win? Olympic Gold medals and longevity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(C), pages 193-204.
    5. Kapteyn, Arie & Kleinjans, Kristin J. & van Soest, Arthur, 2009. "Intertemporal consumption with directly measured welfare functions and subjective expectations," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 425-437, October.
    6. Michael D. Carr & Arjun Jayadev, 2015. "Relative Income and Indebtedness: Evidence from Panel Data," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 61(4), pages 759-772, December.
    7. Gamannossi degl’Innocenti, Duccio & Rablen, Matthew D., 2020. "Tax evasion on a social network," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 169(C), pages 79-91.
    8. Freddy Espino Lazo, 2018. "Sistema de Pensiones en el Perú: La siguiente reforma," Revista de Análisis Económico y Financiero, Universidad de San Martín de Porres, vol. 1(01), pages 53-64.
    9. Rablen, Matthew D. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2007. "Mortality and Immortality," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 785, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    10. Rablen, Matthew D. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2008. "Mortality and immortality: The Nobel Prize as an experiment into the effect of status upon longevity," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(6), pages 1462-1471, December.
    11. Drakopoulos, Stavros, 2011. "Hierarchical Needs, Income Comparisons and Happiness Levels," MPRA Paper 48343, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Luis Angeles, 2008. "Adaption or social comparison? The effects of income on happiness," Working Papers 2009_09, Business School - Economics, University of Glasgow, revised Jun 2009.
    13. Rablen, Matthew D., 2010. "Performance targets, effort and risk-taking," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(4), pages 687-697, August.
    14. repec:mab:wpaper:15 is not listed on IDEAS
    15. Cahit Guven & Bent Sørensen, 2012. "Subjective Well-Being: Keeping Up with the Perception of the Joneses," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 109(3), pages 439-469, December.
    16. Michael D. Carr & Arjun Jayadev, 2013. "Relative Income and Indebtedness: Evidence from Panel Data," Working Papers 2013_02, University of Massachusetts Boston, Economics Department.

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