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Reported Job Satisfaction: What Does It Mean?

  • Louis Lévy-Garboua
  • Claude Montmarquette

By reporting his satisfaction with his job or any other experience, an individual does not communicate the number of utils that he feels. Instead, he expresses his posterior preference over available alternatives conditional on acquired knowledge of the past. This new interpretation of reported job satisfaction restores the power of microeconomic theory without denying the essential role of discrepancies between one's situation and available opportunities. Posterior human wealth discrepancies are found to be the best predictor of reported job satisfaction. Static models of relative utility and other subjective well-being assumptions are all unambiguously rejected by the data, as well as an economic model in which job satisfaction is a measure of posterior human wealth. The posterior choice model readily explains why so many people usually report themselves as happy or satisfied, why both younger and older age groups are insensitive to current earning discrepancies, and why the past weighs more heavily than the present and the future. En rapportant sa satisfaction vis-à-vis son travail ou toute autre expérience, un individu ne communique pas le nombre d'unités d'utilité qu'il ressent. Plutôt, conditionnellement à ses expériences antérieures, il exprime a posteriori sa préférence relativement à d'autres emplois ou situations alternatives. Cette nouvelle interprétation de la satisfaction révélée rend à la théorie microéconomique son pouvoir explicatif tout en reconnaissant le rôle essentiel joué par la différence entre la situation d'une personne et les opportunités. Les différences a posteriori dans la richesse humaine sont les meilleurs prédicteurs de la satisfaction révélée. Les modèles statistiques de l'utilité relative et ceux d'utilité subjective sont tous rejetés par les données, de même que le modèle économique où la satisfaction de l'emploi est une mesure de la richesse humaine a posteriori. Le modèle de choix a posteriori explique pourquoi dans les enquêtes une grande majorité de personnes expriment leur bonheur ou leur satisfaction, pourquoi les jeunes et les vieux ne réagissent pas aux différentielles de revenus courants et pourquoi le passé joue davantage que la situation présente ou future.

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Paper provided by CIRANO in its series CIRANO Working Papers with number 97s-09.

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Length: 47 pages
Date of creation: 01 Mar 1997
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:cir:cirwor:97s-09
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  1. Andrew E. Clark and Andrew J. Oswald, . "Satisfaction and Comparison Income," Economics Discussion Papers 419, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  2. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J. & Warr, Peter B., 1994. "Is job satisfaction u-shaped in age ?," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9407, CEPREMAP.
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  14. Clark, A.E., 1995. "Job Satisfaction and Gender: Why Are Women so Happy at Work?," DELTA Working Papers 95-10, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
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  16. Mcleer, M. & Mckenzie, C.R., 1989. "When Are Two Step Estimators Efficient?," Papers 179, Australian National University - Department of Economics.
  17. Louis Lévy-Garboua & Claude Montmarquette & Véronique Simonnet, 2007. "Job Satisfaction and Quits," Université Paris1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Post-Print and Working Papers) halshs-00203158, HAL.
  18. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
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  24. Louis Lévy-Garboua & Claude Montmarquette, 1996. "A microeconometric study of theatre demand," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 25-50, March.
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  28. Louis Lévy-Garboua & Claude Montmarquette & Véronique Simonnet, 2001. "Job Satisfaction and Quits: Theory and Evidence from the German Socioeconomic Panel," CIRANO Working Papers 2001s-41, CIRANO.
  29. Pagan, Adrian, 1984. "Econometric Issues in the Analysis of Regressions with Generated Regressors," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 25(1), pages 221-47, February.
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