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Income Comparisons among Neighbours and Life Satisfaction in East and West Germany

  • Gundi Knies

A series of studies have suggested that changes in others' income may be perceived differently in post-transition and capitalist societies. This paper draws on the German Socio-economic Panel Study (SOEP) matched with micro-marketing indicators of population characteristics in very tightly drawn neighbourhoods to investigate whether reactions to changes in their neighbours' income divide the German nation. We find that the neighbourhood income effect for West Germany is negative (which is in line with the "relative income" hypothesis) and slightly more marked in neighbourhoods that may be assumed to be places where social interactions between neighbours take place. In contrast, the coefficients on neighbourhood income in East Germany are positive (which is consistent with the 'signalling' hypothesis), but statistically not significant. This suggests not only that there is a divide between East and West Germany, but also that neighbours may not be a relevant comparison group in societies that have comparatively low levels of neighbouring.

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File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.356632.de/diw_sp0298.pdf
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Paper provided by DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) in its series SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research with number 298.

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Length: 23 p.
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp298
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  1. Clark, Andrew E. & Diener, Ed & Georgellis, Yannis & Lucas, Richard E., 2006. "Lags and Leads in Life Satisfaction: A Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," IZA Discussion Papers 2526, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 10667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Stephen Gibbons & Stephen Machin, 2008. "Valuing school quality, better transport, and lower crime: evidence from house prices," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(1), pages 99-119, spring.
  4. Robert Drago & Mark Wooden & Yi-Ping Tseng, 2004. "Investigating the Role of Neighbourhood Characteristics in Determining Life Satisfaction," Melbourne Institute Working Paper Series wp2004n01, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, The University of Melbourne.
  5. Senik, Claudia, 2004. "When information dominates comparison: Learning from Russian subjective panel data," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 2099-2123, August.
  6. Gundi Knies, 2009. "The Effects of Mobility on Neighbourhood Social Ties," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 175, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  7. Guglielmo Maria Caporale & Yannis Georgellis & Nicholas Tsitsianis & Ya Ping Yin, 2007. "Income and Happiness across Europe: Do Reference Values Matter?," CESifo Working Paper Series 2146, CESifo Group Munich.
  8. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald, 2000. "Well-Being Over Time in Britain and the USA," NBER Working Papers 7487, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Gert G. Wagner & Joachim R. Frick & Jürgen Schupp, 2007. "The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP): Scope, Evolution and Enhancements," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 1, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  10. Gundi Knies & Simon Burgess & Carol Propper, 2007. "Keeping up with the Schmidts: An Empirical Test of Relative Deprivation Theory in the Neighbourhood Context," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 697, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  11. Paul Frijters & John P. Haisken-DeNew & Michael A. Shields, 2004. "Money Does Matter! Evidence from Increasing Real Income and Life Satisfaction in East Germany Following Reunification," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 730-740, June.
  12. Ed Diener & Ed Sandvik & Larry Seidlitz & Marissa Diener, 1993. "The relationship between income and subjective well-being: Relative or absolute?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 28(3), pages 195-223, March.
  13. Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell & Paul Frijters, 2004. "How Important is Methodology for the estimates of the determinants of Happiness?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(497), pages 641-659, 07.
  14. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1993. "Satisfaction and Comparison Income," Economics Discussion Papers 10018, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  15. Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2005. "Income and well-being: an empirical analysis of the comparison income effect," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 997-1019, June.
  16. Michael Shields & Stephen Wheatley Price & Mark Wooden, 2009. "Life satisfaction and the economic and social characteristics of neighbourhoods," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 22(2), pages 421-443, April.
  17. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  18. Jan Goebel & C. Katharina Spieß & Nils R. J. Witte & Susanne Gerstenberg, 2007. "Die Verknüpfung des SOEP mit MICROM-Indikatoren: Der MICROM-SOEP Datensatz," Data Documentation 26, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  19. Hirschman, Albert O., 1973. "The changing tolerance for income inequality in the course of economic development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 1(12), pages 29-36, December.
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