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Adaptation to Income over Time: A Weak Point of Subjective Well-Being

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  • Christoph Wunder

Abstract

This article holds the view that intertemporal comparisons of subjective well-being measures are only meaningful when the underlying standards of judgment are unaltered. This is a weak point of such measures. The study investigates the change in the satisfaction judgments resulting from adaptation to income over time. Adaptation is defined to be desensitization (sensitization) to the hedonic effect of income resulting from an upward (downward) adjustment of the standards. A framework is introduced that provides empirical estimates for the rate of adaptation using data from the Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP).

Suggested Citation

  • Christoph Wunder, 2008. "Adaptation to Income over Time: A Weak Point of Subjective Well-Being," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 130, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp130
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    File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.89337.de/diw_sp0130.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
    2. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2002. "What Can Economists Learn from Happiness Research?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 402-435, June.
    3. Stutzer, Alois, 2004. "The role of income aspirations in individual happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 89-109, May.
    4. Arie Kapteyn & James P. Smith & Arthur van Soest, 2007. "Vignettes and Self-Reports of Work Disability in the United States and the Netherlands," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 97(1), pages 461-473, March.
    5. Arie Kapteyn & James P. Smith & Arthur Van Soest, 2013. "Are A mericans Really Less Happy with Their Incomes?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 59(1), pages 44-65, March.
    6. 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.
    7. J.J. Ehrhardt & W.E. Saris & R. Veenhoven, 2000. "Stability of Life-satisfaction over Time," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 177-205, June.
    8. Kahneman, Daniel & Tversky, Amos, 1979. "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(2), pages 263-291, March.
    9. Gert G. Wagner & Joachim R. Frick & Jürgen Schupp, 2007. "The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) – Scope, Evolution and Enhancements," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 127(1), pages 139-169.
    10. Arie Kapteyn & James P. Smith & Arthur Van Soest, 2013. "Are A mericans Really Less Happy with Their Incomes?," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, pages 44-65.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Adaptation; financial satisfaction; subjective well-being; standards of judgment;

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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