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Comparing Consumption: A Curse or a Blessing?

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  • Strulik, Holger

Abstract

Does it make us unhappier when we compare our current consumption with that of the Joneses or our own past achievements? This paper tries an answer without recurring on interpersonal utility comparisons. It calibrates an economy under three different assumptions, non-comparing utility, and inward-looking and outward-looking habit formation. Using consumption equivalents it then calculates how much individual welfare is affected in each economy by unexpected losses and gains of wealth.

Suggested Citation

  • Strulik, Holger, 2008. "Comparing Consumption: A Curse or a Blessing?," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-382, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät.
  • Handle: RePEc:han:dpaper:dp-382
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    File URL: http://diskussionspapiere.wiwi.uni-hannover.de/pdf_bib/dp-382.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alonso-Carrera, Jaime & Caballe, Jordi & Raurich, Xavier, 2005. "Growth, habit formation, and catching-up with the Joneses," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 49(6), pages 1665-1691, August.
    2. Abel, Andrew B, 1990. "Asset Prices under Habit Formation and Catching Up with the Joneses," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 38-42, May.
    3. Francisco Alvarez-Cuadrado & Goncalo Monteiro & Stephen J. Turnovsky, 2004. "Habit Formation, Catching Up with the Joneses, and Economic Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(1), pages 47-80, March.
    4. Oswald, Andrew J, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1815-1831, November.
    5. Jody Overland & Christopher D. Carroll & David N. Weil, 2000. "Saving and Growth with Habit Formation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 341-355, June.
    6. 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.
    7. 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.
    8. Carroll, Christopher D & Overland, Jody & Weil, David N, 1997. "Comparison Utility in a Growth Model," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 2(4), pages 339-367, December.
    9. Constantinides, George M, 1990. "Habit Formation: A Resolution of the Equity Premium Puzzle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(3), pages 519-543, June.
    10. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2005. "How much do we care about absolute versus relative income and consumption?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 405-421, March.
    11. Brunner, Martin & Strulik, Holger, 2002. "Solution of perfect foresight saddlepoint problems: a simple method and applications," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 26(5), pages 737-753, May.
    12. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-484, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Strulik, Holger, 2015. "Preferences, income, and life satisfaction: An equivalence result," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 20-26.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    habit formation; happiness; welfare; economic growth;

    JEL classification:

    • D60 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - General
    • D91 - Microeconomics - - Micro-Based Behavioral Economics - - - Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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