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Income comparison, income formation, and subjective well-being: New evidence on envy versus signaling

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  • Welsch, Heinz
  • Kühling, Jan

Abstract

Drawing on the distinction between envy and signaling effects in income comparison, this paper uses panel data on subjective well-being from Germany over the period 1991–2009 to study whether the nature of income comparison has changed in the process of economic development and institutional change. We conceptualize a person's comparison income as the income predicted by indicators of her productivity and examine if comparison effects have changed with changes in the income–productivity relationship. We find that (i) after a series of institutional reforms that affected income formation, incomes are now better explained by productivity than they were before the reforms, (ii) before the reforms, signaling was the dominant concern in East Germany whereas envy was dominant in West Germany, (iii) since the reforms, no dominance of envy or signaling effects can be found.

Suggested Citation

  • Welsch, Heinz & Kühling, Jan, 2015. "Income comparison, income formation, and subjective well-being: New evidence on envy versus signaling," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 21-31.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:59:y:2015:i:c:p:21-31
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socec.2015.09.004
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    Cited by:

    1. Zhijian Zhang & Xueyuan Wang, 0. "Ambition or Jealousy? It Depends on Whom you are Compared with," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-27.
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    3. Magnani, Elisabetta & Zhu, Rong, 2018. "Does kindness lead to happiness? Voluntary activities and subjective well-being," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 77(C), pages 20-28.
    4. Francisco Olivos & Pablo Olivos-Jara & Magdalena Browne, 2021. "Asymmetric Social Comparison and Life Satisfaction in Social Networks," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 363-384, January.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Income comparison; Envy; Signaling; Income formation; Subjective well-being;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials

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