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Money, Well-being and Loss Aversion: Does an Income Loss Have a Greater Effect on Well-being than an Equivalent Income Gain?

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  • Christopher J. Boyce
  • Alex M. Wood
  • James Banks
  • Andrew E. Clark
  • Gordon D.A. Brown

Abstract

Higher income is associated with greater well-being, but do income gains and losses impact on well-being differently? Loss aversion, whereby losses loom larger than gains, is typically examined with relation to decisions about anticipated outcomes. Here, using subjective well-being data from Germany (N = 28,723) and the UK (N = 20,570), we find that experienced falls in income have a larger impact on well-being than equivalent income gains. The effect is not explained by the diminishing returns to well-being of income. Our findings show that loss aversion applies to experienced losses, counteracting suggestions that loss aversion is only an affective forecasting error. Longitudinal studies of the income/well-being relationship may, by failing to take account of loss aversion, have overestimated the positive effect of income for well-being. Moreover, societal well-being may be best served by small and stable income increases even if such stability impairs long-term growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher J. Boyce & Alex M. Wood & James Banks & Andrew E. Clark & Gordon D.A. Brown, 2014. "Money, Well-being and Loss Aversion: Does an Income Loss Have a Greater Effect on Well-being than an Equivalent Income Gain?," CEP Occasional Papers 39, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepops:39
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 39(1 (Spring), pages 1-102.
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    1. Money, well-being and loss aversion: does an income loss have a greater effect on well-being than an equivalent income gain?
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2015-02-20 22:53:34

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    Cited by:

    1. Zheng Fang & Yoko Niimi, 2015. "Do Losses Bite More than Gains? Evidence from a Panel Quantile Regression Analysis of Subjective Well-being in Japan," Economic Growth Centre Working Paper Series 1507, Nanyang Technological University, School of Social Sciences, Economic Growth Centre.
    2. Mujcic, Redzo & Oswald, Andrew J., 2018. "Is envy harmful to a society's psychological health and wellbeing? A longitudinal study of 18,000 adults," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 198(C), pages 103-111.
    3. Andrew E. Clark, 2018. "Four Decades of the Economics of Happiness: Where Next?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 64(2), pages 245-269, June.
    4. Andrew E. Clark & Conchita D’Ambrosio, 2017. "Living conditions and well-being: Evidence from African countries," WIDER Working Paper Series 209, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    5. Caroline J. Charpentier & Jan-Emmanuel De Neve & Jonathan P. Roiser & Tali Sharot, 2016. "Models of Affective Decision-making: How do Feelings Predict Choice?," CEP Discussion Papers dp1408, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    6. Efstratia Arampatzi & Martijn Burger & Spyridon Stavropoulos & Louis Tay, 2020. "The Role of Positive Expectations for Resilience to Adverse Events: Subjective Well-Being Before, During and After the Greek Bailout Referendum," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 21(3), pages 965-995, March.
    7. Watson, Barry & Osberg, Lars, 2019. "Can positive income anticipations reverse the mental health impacts of negative income anxieties?," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 107-122.
    8. Fang, Zheng & Niimi, Yoko, 2017. "Does everyone exhibit loss aversion? Evidence from a panel quantile regression analysis of subjective well-being in Japan," Journal of the Japanese and International Economies, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 79-90.
    9. Le-Yu Chen & Ekaterina Oparina & Nattavudh Powdthavee & Sorawoot Srisuma, 2019. "Have Econometric Analyses of Happiness Data Been Futile? A Simple Truth About Happiness Scales," Papers 1902.07696, arXiv.org.
    10. Paul Frijters & Christian Krekel & Aydogan Ulker, 2020. "Machiavelli Versus Concave Utility Functions: Should Bads Be Spread Out Or Concentrated?," CEP Discussion Papers dp1680, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    11. Maite Blázquez & Santiago Budría, 2018. "The Effects of Over-indebtedness on Individual Health," Hacienda Pública Española, IEF, vol. 227(4), pages 103-131, December.
    12. Engzell, Per & Ichou, Mathieu, 2019. "Status Loss: The Burden of Positively Selected Immigrants," SocArXiv qr5h7, Center for Open Science.
    13. Johnston, David W. & Shields, Michael A. & Suziedelyte, Agne, 2015. "Victimisation, Wellbeing and Compensation: Using Panel Data to Estimate the Costs of Violent Crime," IZA Discussion Papers 9311, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    14. Isabelle CHORT & Bénédicte APOUEY, 2018. "Are rising house prices really good for your brain? House value and cognitive functioning among older Europeans," Working Papers 2017-2018_7, CATT - UPPA - Université de Pau et des Pays de l'Adour, revised Oct 2018.
    15. Carly Moulang & Maria Strydom, 2018. "Does well‐being impact individuals’ risky decisions and susceptibility to cognitive bias?," Accounting and Finance, Accounting and Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand, vol. 58(S1), pages 493-527, November.
    16. Kossuth, Lajos & Powdthavee, Nattavudh & Harris, Donna & Chater, Nick, 2020. "Does it pay to bet on your favourite to win? Evidence on experienced utility from the 2018 FIFA World Cup experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 171(C), pages 35-58.
    17. Alex Markle & George Wu & Rebecca White & Aaron Sackett, 2018. "Goals as reference points in marathon running: A novel test of reference dependence," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 56(1), pages 19-50, February.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Loss aversion; money; income; subjective well-being;

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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