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Rethinking the Relative Income Hypothesis

  • Cristina Blanco-Perez

Income comparisons have been found to be important for individual health. However, the literature has so far looked solely at upward comparisons, disregarding the effects of comparisons with worse-off individuals. In this paper, I use a broad definition of relative income to test simultaneously for the effect of "upward" and "downward" income comparisons on health. Relative deprivation and relative satisfaction indexes are used to summarise upward and downward comparisons. Panel data models are used to correct for income endogeneity bias due to omitted variables. Using German Socio-Economic Panel data (SOEP), results show that relative deprivation has a positive effect, while relative satisfaction has a deleterious impact on health. These findings hold after correcting for unobserved heterogeneity and are robust to using quasi-objective health measures (but mental health) and to different reference groups.

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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 501.

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Length: 49 p.
Date of creation: 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp501
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  1. Jones, Andrew M. & Wildman, John, 2008. "Health, income and relative deprivation: Evidence from the BHPS," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 308-324, March.
  2. John P. Haisken-DeNew & Markus H. Hahn, 2010. "PanelWhiz - Efficient Data Extraction of Complex Panel Data Sets: An Example Using the German SOEP," Data Documentation 53, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  3. Fehr, Ernst & Schmidt, Klaus M., 1998. "A Theory of Fairness, Competition and Cooperation," CEPR Discussion Papers 1812, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Vincent Hildebrand & Philippe Kerm, 2009. "Income inequality and self-rated health status: Evidence from the european community household panel," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 46(4), pages 805-825, November.
  5. Douglas Miller & Christina Paxson, 2001. "Relative Income, Race, and Mortality," Working Papers 269, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  6. Senik, Claudia, 2007. "Direct Evidence on Income Comparisons and their Welfare Effects," IZA Discussion Papers 3195, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Debra S. Dwyer & Olivia S. Mitchell, . "Health Problems as Determinants of Retirement: Are Self-Rated Measures Endogenous?," Pension Research Council Working Papers 98-7, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  8. Origo, Federica & Pagani, Laura, 2009. "Flexicurity and job satisfaction in Europe: The importance of perceived and actual job stability for well-being at work," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(5), pages 547-555, October.
  9. Falk, Armin & Knell, Markus, 2004. "Choosing the Joneses: Endogenous Goals and Reference Standards," CEPR Discussion Papers 4459, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. 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).
  11. Guy Mayraz & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2009. "Life Satisfaction and Relative Income: Perceptions and Evidence," CEP Discussion Papers dp0938, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  12. KNIGHT, John & SONG, Lina & GUNATILAKA, Ramani, 2009. "Subjective well-being and its determinants in rural China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 635-649, December.
  13. Christopher F Baum, 2006. "An Introduction to Modern Econometrics using Stata," Stata Press books, StataCorp LP, number imeus, September.
  14. Theodossiou, I. & Zangelidis, A., 2009. "The social gradient in health: The effect of absolute income and subjective social status assessment on the individual's health in Europe," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 229-237, July.
  15. Ulf-G. Gerdtham & Magnus Johannesson, 2004. "Absolute Income, Relative Income, Income Inequality, and Mortality," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
  16. Karlsson, Martin & Nilsson, Therese & Lyttkens, Carl Hampus & Leeson, George, 2010. "Income inequality and health: Importance of a cross-country perspective," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(6), pages 875-885, March.
  17. Matthias Nübling & Hanfried H. Andersen & Axel Mühlbacher & Jürgen Schupp & Gert G. Wagner, 2007. "Computation of Standard Values for Physical and Mental Health Scale Scores Using the SOEP Version of SF12v2," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 127(1), pages 171-182.
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