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How Much Do We Care About Absolute Versus Relative Income and Consumption?

Author

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  • Alpizar, Francisco

    (Department of Economics, School of Economics and Commercial Law, Göteborg University)

  • Carlsson, Fredrik

    (Department of Economics, School of Economics and Commercial Law, Göteborg University)

  • Johansson-Stenman, Olof

    (Department of Economics, School of Economics and Commercial Law, Göteborg University)

Abstract

We find, using survey-experimental methods, that most individuals are concerned with both relative income and relative consumption of particular goods. The degree of concern varies in the expected direction depending on the properties of the good. However, contrary to what has been suggested in the previous literature, we find that relative consumption is also important for vacation and insurance, which are typically seen as non-positional goods. Further, absolute consumption is also found to be important for cars and housing, which are widely regarded as highly positional. Implications for Pareto-efficient taxation are illustrated using the results from the experiment.

Suggested Citation

  • Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2001. "How Much Do We Care About Absolute Versus Relative Income and Consumption?," Working Papers in Economics 63, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:gunwpe:0063
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    status; relative income; optimal taxes; experiments;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • H21 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Efficiency; Optimal Taxation

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