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Status, Affluence, and Inequality: Rank-Based Comparisons in Games of Status

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  • Ed Hopkins
  • Tatiana Kornienko

Abstract

We examine the effects of changes in the income distribution in an economy where agents' utility depends both on consumption and on their rank in the distribution of conspicuous consumption. We introduce a new methodology to compare the behavior of agents that occupy the same rank in the two different income distributions but typically have different levels of incomes. Here, an increase in incomes of the least endowed improves their welfare, yet it also increases social competition, making those in the middle to be worse off--even if they have higher incomes as well. As social competition can be lowered by spreading agents apart in income space, we find that an increase in incomes for all, augmented by (weakly) increased income dispersion, constitutes a sufficient condition for Pareto-improvement. We also show that one can have an increase both in income and relative position but still be worse off.
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Suggested Citation

  • Ed Hopkins & Tatiana Kornienko, 2007. "Status, Affluence, and Inequality: Rank-Based Comparisons in Games of Status," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001442, UCLA Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:cla:levrem:122247000000001442
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2013. "Publicly Provided Private Goods and Optimal Taxation when Consumers Have Positional Preferences," Working Papers in Economics 558, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    2. Ed Hopkins, 2012. "Job Market Signaling Of Relative Position, Or Becker Married To Spence," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 10(2), pages 290-322, April.
    3. Mazali, Rogério & Rodrigues-Neto, José A., 2013. "Dress to impress: Brands as status symbols," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 82(C), pages 103-131.
    4. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2014. "Paternalism against Veblen: Optimal Taxation and Non-Respected Preferences for Social Comparisons," Umeå Economic Studies 901, Umeå University, Department of Economics.
    5. St-Pierre, Marc, 2016. "The role of inequality on effort in tournaments," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 38-52.
    6. Ferrari, Luca, 2018. "Social limits to redistribution and conspicuous norms," Economics Discussion Papers 2018-30, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
    7. Thomas Aronsson & Olof Johansson-Stenman, 2013. "Veblen’s theory of the leisure class revisited: implications for optimal income taxation," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 41(3), pages 551-578, September.
    8. repec:oup:oxecpp:v:69:y:2017:i:4:p:870-896. is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Ed Hopkins, 2008. "Inequality, happiness and relative concerns: What actually is their relationship?," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 6(4), pages 351-372, December.
    10. Bilancini, Ennio & D'Alessandro, Simone, 2012. "Long-run welfare under externalities in consumption, leisure, and production: A case for happy degrowth vs. unhappy growth," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 194-205.
    11. Gonzalez Jimenez, Victor, 2016. "Believe Me, You are (not) that Bad," Discussion Paper 2016-032, Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research.
    12. Bilancini, Ennio & Boncinelli, Leonardo, 2012. "Redistribution and the notion of social status," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(9-10), pages 651-657.
    13. Aronsson, Thomas & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2014. "Positional preferences in time and space: Optimal income taxation with dynamic social comparisons," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 1-23.

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