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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?

Author

Listed:
  • 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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    4. Di Tella, Rafael & Haisken-De New, John & MacCulloch, Robert, 2010. "Happiness adaptation to income and to status in an individual panel," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 834-852, December.
    5. Vendrik, Maarten C.M. & Woltjer, Geert B., 2007. "Happiness and loss aversion: Is utility concave or convex in relative income?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(7-8), pages 1423-1448, August.
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    8. Robert E. Lucas Jr., 2003. "Macroeconomic Priorities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 1-14, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:jjieco:v:46:y:2017:i:c:p:79-90 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. 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.
    3. 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 for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. repec:kap:jrisku:v:56:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1007_s11166-018-9271-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. 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).

    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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