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Job satisfaction and co-worker wages: Status or signal?


  • Andrew E. Clark

    (PSE - Paris School of Economics, IZA - Institute for the Study of Labor - IZA, PJSE - Paris-Jourdan Sciences Economiques - ENS Paris - École normale supérieure - Paris - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

  • Nicolai Kristensen

    (Aarhus University [Aarhus])

  • Niels Westergård-Nielsen

    (IZA - Institute for the Study of Labor - IZA, Aarhus University [Aarhus])


This paper uses matched employer-employee panel data to show that individual job satisfaction is higher when other workers in the same establishment are better-paid. This runs contrary to a large literature which has found evidence of income comparisons in subjective well-being. We argue that the difference hinges on the nature of the reference group. We here use co-workers. Their wages not only induce jealousy, but also provide a signal about the worker's own future earnings. Our positive estimated coefficient on others' wages shows that this positive future earnings signal outweighs any negative status effect. This phenomenon is stronger for men, and in the private sector.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrew E. Clark & Nicolai Kristensen & Niels Westergård-Nielsen, 2007. "Job satisfaction and co-worker wages: Status or signal?," PSE Working Papers halshs-00587878, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:psewpa:halshs-00587878
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Levy-Garboua, Louis & Montmarquette, Claude & Simonnet, Veronique, 2007. "Job satisfaction and quits," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 251-268, April.
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    More about this item


    job satisfaction; co-workers; comparison income; wage expectations; tournaments;

    JEL classification:

    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models
    • C25 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Discrete Regression and Qualitative Choice Models; Discrete Regressors; Proportions; Probabilities
    • D84 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Expectations; Speculations
    • J28 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Safety; Job Satisfaction; Related Public Policy
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods


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