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Income inequality, consumption, and social-status seeking

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  • Jin, Ye
  • Li, Hongbin
  • Wu, Binzhen

Abstract

Using the Chinese Urban Household Survey data between 1997 and 2006, we find that income inequality has a negative (positive) effect on household consumption net of education expenditures (savings) even after we control for household income. We argue that people save to improve their social status when social status is associated with pecuniary and non-pecuniary benefits. Rising income inequality can strengthen the incentives of status-seeking savings by increasing the benefit of improving status, and by enlarging the wealth level required for status upgrading. We also find that the negative effect of income inequality on consumption is stronger for poorer and younger people and that income inequality stimulates more education investment, which are consistent with the status-seeking hypothesis.

Suggested Citation

  • Jin, Ye & Li, Hongbin & Wu, Binzhen, 2011. "Income inequality, consumption, and social-status seeking," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 191-204, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jcecon:v:39:y:2011:i:2:p:191-204
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    3. Tyers, Rod, 2015. "International effects of China's rise and transition: Neoclassical and Keynesian perspectives," Journal of Asian Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 1-19.
    4. van Treeck, Till. & Sturn, Simon., 2012. "Income inequality as a cause of the Great Recession? : A survey of current debates," ILO Working Papers 994709343402676, International Labour Organization.
    5. M A B Siddique & Heru Wibowo & Yanrui Wu, 2014. "Fiscal Decentralisation and Inequality in Indonesia: 1999-2008," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 14-22, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
    6. Bing Han & David Hirshleifer & Johan Walden, 2019. "Visibility Bias in the Transmission of Consumption Beliefs and Undersaving," NBER Working Papers 25566, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Zhou, Yixiao & Tyers, Rod, 2019. "Automation and inequality in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 58(C).
    8. Song, Yang & Zhou, Guangsu, 2019. "Inequality of opportunity and household education expenditures: Evidence from panel data in China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 85-98.
    9. David Hirshleifer, 2020. "Presidential Address: Social Transmission Bias in Economics and Finance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 75(4), pages 1779-1831, August.
    10. Li, Linyang, 2018. "Financial inclusion and poverty: The role of relative income," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 52(C), pages 165-191.
    11. Lingsheng Meng & Binzhen Wu & Zhaoguo Zhan, 2016. "Linear regression with an estimated regressor: applications to aggregate indicators of economic development," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 50(2), pages 299-316, March.
    12. Rod Tyers & Yixiao Zhou, 2018. "Lost Inflation?," Economics Discussion / Working Papers 18-01, The University of Western Australia, Department of Economics.
    13. Allen, Jeffrey & Chakraborty, Shankha, 2018. "Aspirations, health and the cost of inequality," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 86(C), pages 144-164.
    14. Saravana Jaikumar & Ankur Sarin, 2015. "Conspicuous consumption and income inequality in an emerging economy: evidence from India," Marketing Letters, Springer, vol. 26(3), pages 279-292, September.
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