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The Association Between Perceived Income Inequality and Subjective Well-being: Evidence from a Social Survey in Japan

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  • Takashi Oshio

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  • Kunio Urakawa

Abstract

Previous studies have shown that income inequality in society is negatively associated with individuals subjective well-being (SWB), such as their perceived happiness and self-rated health (SRH). However, it is not realistic to assume that individuals have precise information about actual income distribution measured by the Gini coefficient or other statistical measures. In the current study, we examined how perceived income inequality, rather than actual inequality, was associated with SWB, using cross-sectional data collected from a nationwide, Internet survey conducted in Japan (N = 10,432). We also examined how this association was confounded by individuals’ objective and subjective income status, considering the possibility that individuals with lower income status are more inclined to both perceive income inequality and feel unhappy/unhealthy. In our analysis, we focused on the perception of widening income inequality (as perceived income inequality), perceived happiness and SRH (as SWB), and household income and living standards compared with 1 year ago and compared with others (as income status). We also controlled for personality traits. We obtained three key findings: (1) perceived income inequality was negatively associated with SWB; (2) both perceived income inequality and SWB were associated with income status; and (3) the association between perceived income inequality and SWB was attenuated after controlling for income status, but not fully for perceived happiness. These findings suggest that perceived income inequality, which links actual income inequality to SWB, should be further studied. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Suggested Citation

  • Takashi Oshio & Kunio Urakawa, 2014. "The Association Between Perceived Income Inequality and Subjective Well-being: Evidence from a Social Survey in Japan," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 116(3), pages 755-770, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:116:y:2014:i:3:p:755-770 DOI: 10.1007/s11205-013-0323-x
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Goerke, Laszlo & Pannenberg, Markus, 2015. "Direct evidence for income comparisons and subjective well-being across reference groups," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 137(C), pages 95-101.
    2. Fang, Zheng & Niimi, Yoko, 2015. "Do Losses Bite More than Gains? Evidence from a Panel Quantile Regression Analysis of Subjective Well-being in Japan," MPRA Paper 68059, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. Syed Ali Raza & Muhammad Shahbaz & Sudharshan Reddy Paramati, 2017. "Dynamics of Military Expenditure and Income Inequality in Pakistan," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 131(3), pages 1035-1055, April.
    4. repec:eee:jjieco:v:46:y:2017:i:c:p:79-90 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Hajdu, Tamás & Hajdu, Gábor, 2014. "Reduction of income inequality and subjective well-being in Europe," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 8, pages 1-29.
    6. Fabio Zagonari, 2016. "Which Attitudes Will Make us Individually and Socially Happier and Healthier? A Cross-Culture and Cross-Development Analytical Model," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 17(6), pages 2527-2554, December.
    7. Quang Tran, Tuyen & Viet Nguyen, Cuong & Van Vu, Huong, 2015. "Economic Inequality and Happiness: A quantitative study among the elderly in Rural Vietnam," MPRA Paper 81235, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 14 Oct 2016.

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