IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Relative Utility Hypothesis With and Without Self-reported Reference Wages

  • Adrian de la Garza
  • Giovanni Mastrobuoni
  • Atsushi Sannabe
  • Katsunori Yamada

This article uses survey data of 90,000 union employees working in 62 publicly-traded companies in Japan between 1990 and 2004 to study the effect of both own and self-reported reference wages on workers' subjective well-being levels. The availability of self-reported reference wages generates very robust findings that do not depend on questionable identifying assumptions. These findings confirm that higher estimates by workers of their peers' earnings are associated with lower levels of life and job satisfaction. These comparison effects are statistically and economically strong but are smaller in absolute value than the impact of workers' own wages on their own utility. We compare our results with standard tests of the relative utility hypothesis in the literature that recur to alternative proxies for comparison wages, including: (i) Mincer-predicted wages; (ii) cell averages defined over different groups within our dataset; (iii) cell wage averages estimated from an external data source; and (iv) colleagues' average wages. In spite of their potential flaws — that we discuss — these alternative empirical constructs employed in the literature do not introduce a simple classical measurement error problem and the bias attributed to this measurement error issue can go in both directions. We propose a simple IV strategy when the self-reported reference wage is not available that does not eliminate the bias but delivers a lower bound of the "true" effect. We also address the issue of endogeneity of self-reported reference wages in our subjective well-being regressions by accounting for workers' pessimistic attitudes at the workplace.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: http://www.carloalberto.org/assets/working-papers/no.159.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Collegio Carlo Alberto in its series Carlo Alberto Notebooks with number 159.

as
in new window

Length: 36 pages
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:159
Contact details of provider: Postal: Via Real Collegio, 30, 10024 Moncalieri (To)
Phone: +390116705000
Fax: +390116476847
Web page: http://www.carloalberto.org/
Email:


More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Hirschman, Albert O & Rothschild, Michael, 1973. "The Changing Tolerance for Income Inequality in the Course of Economic Development; with a Mathematical Appendix," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 87(4), pages 544-66, November.
  2. David Card & Alexandre Mas & Enrico Moretti & Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "Inequality at Work: The Effect of Peer Salaries on Job Satisfaction," NBER Working Papers 16396, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Andrew E. Clark and Andrew J. Oswald, . "Satisfaction and Comparison Income," Economics Discussion Papers 419, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  4. Oswald, Andrew J., 1983. "Altruism, jealousy and the theory of optimal non-linear taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 77-87, February.
  5. LEVY-GARBOUA, Louis & MONTMARQUETTE, Claude, 1997. "Reported Job Satisfaction : What Does It Mean?," Cahiers de recherche 9705, Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques.
  6. Ernst Fehr & Joseph Henrich & Robert Boyd, 2003. "In Search of Homo Economicus: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small- Scale Societies," Microeconomics 0305009, EconWPA.
  7. John Knight & Lina Song, 2007. "Subjective Well-being and its Determinants in Rural China," Economics Series Working Papers 334, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  8. Yamada, Katsunori, 2008. "Macroeconomic implications of conspicuous consumption: A Sombartian dynamic model," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 322-337, July.
  9. Ernst Fehr & Simon Gaechter, 2003. "Altruistic Punishment in Humans," Microeconomics 0305006, EconWPA.
  10. 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.
  11. Ed Diener & Ed Sandvik & Larry Seidlitz & Marissa Diener, 1993. "The relationship between income and subjective well-being: Relative or absolute?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 195-223, March.
  12. Brown, Gordon D. A. & Gardner, Jonathan & Oswald, Andrew J. & Qian, Jing, 2005. "Does Wage Rank Affect Employees' Wellbeing?," IZA Discussion Papers 1505, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Clark, Andrew E. & Senik, Claudia, 2009. "Who Compares to Whom? The Anatomy of Income Comparisons in Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 4414, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  14. A. Abel, 2010. "Asset prices under habit formation and catching up with the Jones," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1395, David K. Levine.
  15. Corneo, Giacomo & Jeanne, Olivier, 1997. "Conspicuous consumption, snobbism and conformism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 55-71, October.
  16. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2010. "Recent Advances in the Economics of Individual Subjective Well-Being," Working papers 2010/04, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.
  17. Armin Falk & Markus Knell, 2004. "Choosing the Joneses: Endogenous Goals and Reference Standards," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 106(3), pages 417-435, October.
  18. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2005. "How much do we care about absolute versus relative income and consumption?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 405-421, March.
  19. Bill Dupor & Wen-Fang Liu, 2003. "Jealousy and Equilibrium Overconsumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 423-428, March.
  20. Katsunori Yamada & Masayuki Sato, 2010. "Another Avenue for Anatomy of Income Comparisons: Evidence from Hypothetical Choice Experiments," ISER Discussion Paper 0795, Institute of Social and Economic Research, Osaka University, revised Mar 2013.
  21. Andrew E. Clark & Nicolai Kristensen & Niels Westergård-Nielsen, 2008. "Economic satisfaction and income rank in small neighbourhoods," PSE Working Papers halshs-00586254, HAL.
  22. John Y. Campbell & John Cochrane, 1999. "Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 205-251, April.
  23. Olof Johansson-Stenman & Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala, 2002. "Measuring Future Grandparents" Preferences for Equality and Relative Standing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 362-383, April.
  24. van de Stadt, Huib & Kapteyn, Arie & van de Geer, Sara, 1985. "The Relativity of Utility: Evidence from Panel Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(2), pages 179-87, May.
  25. Gali, J., 1992. "Keeping Up with the Joneses: Consumption Externalities, Portfolio Choice and Asset Prices," Papers 92-22, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  26. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 616, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  27. J. Solnick, Sara & Hemenway, David, 1998. "Is more always better?: A survey on positional concerns," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 373-383, November.
  28. Stutzer, Alois, 2004. "The role of income aspirations in individual happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 89-109, May.
  29. Boskin, Michael J & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1978. "Optimal Redistributive Taxation when Individual Welfare Depends upon Relative Income," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 589-601, November.
  30. Luis Rayo & Gary S. Becker, 2007. "Evolutionary Efficiency and Happiness," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115, pages 302-337.
  31. Daniel Kahneman & Alan B. Krueger, 2006. "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(1), pages 3-24, Winter.
  32. P. J. Sloane & H. Williams, 2000. "Job Satisfaction, Comparison Earnings, and Gender," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 14(3), pages 473-502, 09.
  33. Fredrik Carlsson & Gautam Gupta & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2009. "Keeping up with the Vaishyas? Caste and relative standing in India," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 61(1), pages 52-73, January.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cca:wpaper:159. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Giovanni Bert)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.