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Relative Deprivation and Health: Which Reference Groups Matter?


  • Eiji Mangyo
  • Albert Park


We examine the extent to which self-reported health and psychosocial health are affected by relative economic status in China, for the first time examining the importance of reference groups not defined by geographic location or demographic characteristics. We propose a methodology to address potential bias from subjective reporting biases and control for unobserved community characteristics. Analyzing a nationally representative data set from China, our findings support the relative deprivation hypothesis and suggest that relatives and classmates are salient reference groups for urban residents and neighbors are important for rural residents.

Suggested Citation

  • Eiji Mangyo & Albert Park, 2011. "Relative Deprivation and Health: Which Reference Groups Matter?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 46(3), pages 459-481.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:46:y:2011:iii:1:p:459-481

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ulf-G. Gerdtham & Magnus Johannesson, 2004. "Absolute Income, Relative Income, Income Inequality, and Mortality," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    2. Christine Eibner & William N. Evans, 2005. "Relative Deprivation, Poor Health Habits, and Mortality," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(3).
    3. repec:pri:cepsud:125krueger is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2005. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 963-1002.
    5. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger & David Schkade & Norbert Schwarz & Arthur A. Stone, 2006. "Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer? A Focusing Illusion," Working Papers 77, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
    6. Jennifer M. Mellor & Jeffrey Milyo, 2002. "Income Inequality and Health Status in the United States: Evidence from the Current Population Survey," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(3), pages 510-539.
    7. Roland BĂ©nabou, 1996. "Equity and Efficiency in Human Capital Investment: The Local Connection," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 63(2), pages 237-264.
    8. McBride, Michael, 2001. "Relative-income effects on subjective well-being in the cross-section," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 251-278, July.
    9. Jensen, Robert T. & Richter, Kaspar, 2004. "The health implications of social security failure: evidence from the Russian pension crisis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(1-2), pages 209-236, January.
    10. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2005. "Income and well-being: an empirical analysis of the comparison income effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 997-1019, June.
    11. Kawachi, Ichiro & Kennedy, Bruce P., 1997. "The relationship of income inequality to mortality: Does the choice of indicator matter?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 45(7), pages 1121-1127, October.
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