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Happiness, Habits and High Rank: Comparisons in Economic and Social Life

  • Andrew E. Clark

The role of money in producing sustained subjective well-being seems to be seriously compromised by social comparisons and habituation. But does that necessarily mean that we would be better off doing something else instead? This paper suggests that the phenomena of comparison and habituation are actually found in a considerable variety of economic and social activities, rendering conclusions regarding well-being policy less straightforward.

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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 452.

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Length: 40 p.
Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp452
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References listed on IDEAS
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  1. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2008. "Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
  2. Clark, Andrew E. & Diener, Ed & Georgellis, Yannis & Lucas, Richard E., 2008. "Lags and Leads in Life Satisfaction: A Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 0803, CEPREMAP.
  3. AndrewE. Clark & Claudia Senik, 2010. "Who Compares to Whom? The Anatomy of Income Comparisons in Europe," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(544), pages 573-594, 05.
  4. Bruno Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2000. "Happiness Prospers in Democracy," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 79-102, March.
  5. 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.
  6. Melenberg, B., 1992. "Micro-econometric models of consumer behaviour and welfare," Other publications TiSEM a96bf8fb-5eca-4a34-8a23-d, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  7. Clark, Andrew E. & Etilé, Fabrice, 2010. "Happy House: Spousal Weight and Individual Well-Being," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 1001, CEPREMAP.
  8. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2002. "Understanding Social Preferences With Simple Tests," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 117(3), pages 817-869, August.
  9. Andrew E. Clark & Nicolai Kristensen & Niels Westergård-Nielsen, 2009. "Economic Satisfaction and Income Rank in Small Neighbourhoods," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 519-527, 04-05.
  10. Andrew E. Clark & Claudia Senik, 2010. "Will GDP growth increase happiness in developing countries?," PSE Working Papers halshs-00564985, HAL.
  11. Zizzo, D.J. & Oswald, A., 2000. "Are People Willing to Pay to Reduce Others' Incomes?," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 568, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  12. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1998. "Comparison-concave utility and following behaviour in social and economic settings," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 133-155, October.
  13. N Powdthavee, 2008. "Ill-Health as a Household Norm: Evidence from Other People's Health Problems," Discussion Papers 08/21, Department of Economics, University of York.
  14. Olof Johansson-Stenman & Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala, 2002. "Measuring Future Grandparents" Preferences for Equality and Relative Standing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 362-383, April.
  15. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
  16. 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.
  17. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2005. "How much do we care about absolute versus relative income and consumption?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 405-421, March.
  18. AndrewE. Clark & Nicolai Kristensen & Niels Westergård-Nielsen, 2009. "Job Satisfaction and Co-worker Wages: Status or Signal?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(536), pages 430-447, 03.
  19. John Knight & Lina Song, 2007. "Subjective Well-being and its Determinants in Rural China," Economics Series Working Papers 334, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  20. Fliessbach, Klaus & Weber, Bernd & Trautner, P. & Dohmen, Thomas J. & Sunde, Uwe & Elger, C. E. & Falk, Armin, 2007. "Social comparison affects reward-related brain activity in the human ventral striatum," Munich Reprints in Economics 20362, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  21. Clark, Andrew E., 1999. "Are wages habit-forming? evidence from micro data," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 179-200, June.
  22. J. Solnick, Sara & Hemenway, David, 1998. "Is more always better?: A survey on positional concerns," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 373-383, November.
  23. Andrew Clark, 2001. "Unemployment As A Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," DELTA Working Papers 2001-17, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  24. Conchita D'Ambrosio & Joachim R. Frick, 2007. "Individual Well-Being in a Dynamic Perspective," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 673, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  25. repec:pse:psecon:2009-01 is not listed on IDEAS
  26. Claudia Senik, 2002. "When Information Dominates Comparison. A Panel Data Analysis Using Russian Subjective Data," DELTA Working Papers 2002-02, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  27. Andrew E. Clark & Orsolya Lelkes, 2009. "Let us pray: religious interactions in life satisfaction," PSE Working Papers halshs-00566120, HAL.
  28. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, . "Maximising Happiness?," IEW - Working Papers 022, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  29. Rafael Di Tella & John Haisken-De New & Robert MacCulloch, 2007. "Happiness Adaptation to Income and to Status in an Individual Panel," NBER Working Papers 13159, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  30. David G. Blanchflower & Andrew J. Oswald & Bert Van Landeghem, 2009. "Imitative Obesity and Relative Utility," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(2-3), pages 528-538, 04-05.
  31. Wu, Stephen, 2001. "Adapting to heart conditions: a test of the hedonic treadmill," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 495-507, July.
  32. Richard E. Lucas & Andrew Clark & Yannis Georgellis & Ed Diener, 2002. "Re-Examining Adaptation and the Setpoint Model of Happiness: Reactions to Changes in Marital Status," DELTA Working Papers 2002-08, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  33. repec:pse:psecon:2010-43 is not listed on IDEAS
  34. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00566120 is not listed on IDEAS
  35. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  36. Frank, Robert H. & Hutchens, Robert M., 1993. "Wages, seniority, and the demand for rising consumption profiles," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 251-276, August.
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