IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being

  • Luttmer, Erzo F. P.

    (Harvard U)

This paper investigates whether individuals feel worse off when others around them earn more. In other words, do people care about relative position and does “lagging behind the Joneses” diminish well-being? To answer this question, I match individual-level panel data containing a number of indicators of well-being to information about local average earnings. I find that, controlling for an individual’s own income, higher earnings of neighbors are associated with lower levels of self-reported happiness. The data’s panel nature and rich set of measures of well-being and behavior indicate that this association is not driven by selection or by changes in the way people define happiness. There is suggestive evidence that the negative effect of increases in neighbors’ earnings on own well-being is most likely caused by interpersonal preferences, i.e. people having utility functions that depend on relative consumption in addition to absolute consumption.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL: https://research.hks.harvard.edu/publications/getFile.aspx?Id=129
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp04-029.

as
in new window

Length:
Date of creation: Jul 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp04-029
Contact details of provider: Postal:
79 JFK Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Fax: 617-496-2554
Web page: http://www.ksg.harvard.edu/research/working_papers/index.htm

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Michael J. Boskin & Eytan Sheshinski, 1978. "Optimal Redistributive Taxation When Individual Welfare Depends upon Relative Income," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 92(4), pages 589-601.
  2. John Y. Campbell & John H. Cochrane, 1995. "By Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," NBER Working Papers 4995, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Andrew B. Abel, . "Asset Prices Under Habit Formation and Catching Up With the Jones," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 01-90, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  4. John A. Rizzo & Richard J. Zeckhauser, 2003. "Reference Incomes, Loss Aversion, and Physician Behavior," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 909-922, November.
  5. Jeffrey R. Kling & Jeffrey B. Liebman & Lawrence F. Katz & Lisa Sanbonmatsu, 2004. "Moving to Opportuntiy and Tranquility: Neighborhood Effects on Adult Economic Self-sufficiency and Health from a Randomized Housing Voucher Experiment," Working Papers 247, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
  6. Samuel Bowles & Yongjin Park, 2005. "Emulation, Inequality, and Work Hours: Was Thorsten Veblen Right?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(507), pages F397-F412, November.
  7. Alois Stutzer & Rafael Lalive, . "The Role of Social Work Norms in Job Searching and Subjective Well-Being," IEW - Working Papers 051, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich.
  8. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
  9. Gali, J., 1992. "Keeping Up with the Joneses: Consumption Externalities, Portfolio Choice and Asset Prices," Papers 92-22, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
  10. Sendhil Mullainathan & Marianne Bertrand, 2001. "Do People Mean What They Say? Implications for Subjective Survey Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(2), pages 67-72, May.
  11. Pollak, Robert A, 1976. "Interdependent Preferences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 66(3), pages 309-20, June.
  12. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J., 2004. "Well-being over time in Britain and the USA," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1359-1386, July.
  13. Christopher D. Carroll & Jody Overland & David N. Weil, 1997. "Comparison Utility in a Growth Model," NBER Working Papers 6138, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue & Matthew Rabin, 2001. "Projection Bias in Predicting Future Utility," General Economics and Teaching 0012003, EconWPA.
  15. Postlewaite, Andrew, 1998. "The social basis of interdependent preferences," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 779-800, May.
  16. Bernard M.S. van Praag & Paul Frijters, 1999. "The measurement of welfare and well-being; the Leyden approach," School of Economics and Finance Discussion Papers and Working Papers Series 071a, School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology.
  17. David Neumark & Andrew Postlewaite, 1995. "Relative Income Concerns and the Rise in Married Women's Employment," NBER Working Papers 5044, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. 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.
  19. Olivier Jean Blanchard & Lawrence F. Katz, 1992. "Regional Evolutions," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 23(1), pages 1-76.
  20. Oswald, Andrew J., 1983. "Altruism, jealousy and the theory of optimal non-linear taxation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 77-87, February.
  21. Ireland, Norman J., 1998. "Status-seeking, income taxation and efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 99-113, October.
  22. Bernard M. S. van Praag & P. Frijters & Ada Ferrer-i-Carbonell, 2001. "The Anatomy of Subjective Well-Being," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 265, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  23. Robson, Arthur J, 1992. "Status, the Distribution of Wealth, Private and Social Attitudes to Risk," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(4), pages 837-57, July.
  24. 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.
  25. David H. Autor & Mark G. Duggan, 2003. "The Rise in the Disability Rolls and the Decline in Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 157-206.
  26. Ruut Veenhoven, 1991. "Is happiness relative?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 1-34, February.
  27. Gary S. Becker, 1974. "A Theory of Social Interactions," NBER Working Papers 0042, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  28. John Y. Campbell & John Cochrane, 1999. "Force of Habit: A Consumption-Based Explanation of Aggregate Stock Market Behavior," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(2), pages 205-251, April.
  29. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-84, July.
  30. Alberto Alesina & Rafael Di Tella & Robert MacCulloch, 2001. "Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1938, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  31. Timothy J. Bartik, 2003. "Local Economic Development Policies," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 03-91, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  32. repec:pri:indrel:dsp01qz20ss50t is not listed on IDEAS
  33. Jonathan Gruber & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2002. "Do Cigarette Taxes Make Smokers Happier?," NBER Working Papers 8872, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  34. Harald Uhlig & Lars Ljungqvist, 2000. "Tax Policy and Aggregate Demand Management under Catching Up with the Joneses," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 356-366, June.
  35. Andrew E. Clark, 2003. "Unemployment as a Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 289-322, April.
  36. C. Graham & S. Pettinato, 2002. "Frustrated Achievers: Winners, Losers and Subjective Well-Being in New Market Economies," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(4), pages 100-140.
  37. Stutzer, Alois, 2004. "The role of income aspirations in individual happiness," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 89-109, May.
  38. Andrew B. Abel, 2003. "Optimal Taxation When Consumers Have Endogenous Benchmark Levels of Consumption," NBER Working Papers 10099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  39. Sen, Amartya, 1983. "Poor, Relatively Speaking," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 35(2), pages 153-69, July.
  40. Martin Feldstein, 1998. "Income Inequality and Poverty," NBER Working Papers 6770, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  41. Ravallion, Martin & Lokshin, Michael, 2001. "Identifying Welfare Effects from Subjective Questions," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 68(271), pages 335-57, August.
  42. Emmanuel Saez, 2001. "Using Elasticities to Derive Optimal Income Tax Rates," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(1), pages 205-229.
  43. van de Stadt, Huib & Kapteyn, Arie & van de Geer, Sara, 1985. "The Relativity of Utility: Evidence from Panel Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(2), pages 179-87, May.
  44. Layard, Richard, 1980. "Human Satisfactions and Public Policy," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 90(363), pages 737-50, December.
  45. 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.
  46. Bruno S. Frey & Simon Luechinger & Alois Stutzer, 2004. "Valuing Public Goods: The Life Satisfaction Approach," CREMA Working Paper Series 2004-11, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  47. 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.
  48. Ng, Yew-Kwang, 1987. "Relative-Income Effects and the Appropriate Level of Public Expenditure," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 39(2), pages 293-300, June.
  49. repec:pri:cheawb:kling_mto481 is not listed on IDEAS
  50. 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.
  51. Tomes, Nigel, 1986. "Income distribution, happiness and satisfaction: A direct test of the interdependent preferences model," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 7(4), pages 425-446, December.
  52. Larry Samuelson, 2004. "Information-Based Relative Consumption Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 93-118, 01.
  53. Bill Dupor & Wen-Fang Liu, 2003. "Jealousy and Equilibrium Overconsumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 423-428, March.
  54. 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.
  55. Timothy J. Bartik, 1991. "Who Benefits from State and Local Economic Development Policies?," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number wbsle, November.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp04-029. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.