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Direct Evidence on Income Comparisons and Subjective Well-Being

  • Laszlo Goerke
  • Markus Pannenberg

Subjective well-being (SWB) is generally argued to rise with relative income. However, direct evidence is scarce on whether and how intensively individuals undertake income comparisons, to whom they relate, and what they perceive their relative income to be. In this paper, novel data with direct information on income comparison intensity and perceived relative income with respect to predetermined reference groups is used to provide evidence on the relationship between income comparisons and SWB. We find negative correlations between comparison intensity and SWB for co-workers, people in the same occupation and friends. For job-related reference groups income comparisons are mostly upwards and perceiving to earn less than the reference group is negatively correlated with SWB.

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File URL: http://www.diw.de/documents/publikationen/73/diw_01.c.419126.de/diw_sp0549.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 549.

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Length: 18 p.
Date of creation: 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:diw:diwsop:diw_sp549
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  1. Senik, Claudia, 2009. "Direct evidence on income comparisons and their welfare effects," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 408-424, October.
  2. Luttmer, Erzo F. P., 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," Working Paper Series rwp04-029, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
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  7. Boyce, Christopher J. & Wood, Alex M., 2011. "Personality and the marginal utility of income: Personality interacts with increases in household income to determine life satisfaction," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 78(1), pages 183-191.
  8. Cahit Guven & Bent Sørensen, 2012. "Subjective Well-Being: Keeping Up with the Perception of the Joneses," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 109(3), pages 439-469, December.
  9. Boyce, Christopher J. & Wood, Alex M., 2011. "Personality and the marginal utility of income: Personality interacts with increases in household income to determine life satisfaction," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 78(1-2), pages 183-191, April.
  10. Felix R. FitzRoy & Michael A. Nolan & Max F. Steinhardt & David Ulph, 2011. "So Far so Good: Age, Happiness, and Relative Income," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 415, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  11. Santi Budria & Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell, 2012. "Income Comparisons and Non-cognitive Skills," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 441, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  12. Kassenboehmer, Sonja C. & Haisken-DeNew, John P., 2012. "Heresy or enlightenment? The well-being age U-shape effect is flat," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 117(1), pages 235-238.
  13. Dolan, Paul & Peasgood, Tessa & White, Mathew, 2008. "Do we really know what makes us happy A review of the economic literature on the factors associated with subjective well-being," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 94-122, February.
  14. Gundi Knies, 2012. "Income Comparisons Among Neighbours and Satisfaction in East and West Germany," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 106(3), pages 471-489, May.
  15. Budría, Santiago & Ferrer-i-Carbonell, Ada, 2012. "Income Comparisons and Non-Cognitive Skills," IZA Discussion Papers 6419, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  16. McBride, Michael, 2001. "Relative-income effects on subjective well-being in the cross-section," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 251-278, July.
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