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Are People Inequality Averse, and Do They Prefer Redistribution by the State?: Evidence from German Longitudinal Data on Life Satisfaction


  • Johannes Schwarze
  • Marco Härpfer


We link life-satisfaction data to inequality of the pre-government income distribution at the regional level, to estimate the degree of inequality aversion. In addition, we investigate whether a reduction in inequality by the state increases individual well-being. We find that Germans are inequality averse over the entire income distribution. However, inequality reduction by the state does not increase well-being. On the contrary, inequality reduction places something of an excess burden on middle-income earners. The paper uses data from the German Socio-economic Panel Study (GSOEP) from 1985 to 1998.

Suggested Citation

  • Johannes Schwarze & Marco Härpfer, 2002. "Are People Inequality Averse, and Do They Prefer Redistribution by the State?: Evidence from German Longitudinal Data on Life Satisfaction," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 285, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwwpp:dp285

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-659, May.
    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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jesper Rözer & Gerbert Kraaykamp, 2013. "Income Inequality and Subjective Well-being: A Cross-National Study on the Conditional Effects of Individual and National Characteristics," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 113(3), pages 1009-1023, September.
    2. Alois Stutzer & Bruno S. Frey, 2004. "Reported Subjective Well-Being: A Challenge for Economic Theory and Economic Policy," Schmollers Jahrbuch : Journal of Applied Social Science Studies / Zeitschrift für Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaften, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, vol. 124(2), pages 191-231.

    More about this item


    Inequality aversion; redistribution; life satisfaction; panel data;

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being


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