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Competition and well-being: does market competition make people unhappy?

  • Fischer, Justina AV


    (Dept. of Economics, Stockholm School of Economics)

Empirical research on the role of economic institutions for subjective well-being is still widely lacking, while recent economic-experimental outcomes suggest that experienced utility may depend on the intensity of market competition. This paper is the first to empirically analyze the implication of market competition for subjective well-being using real-life survey data on 80,000 individuals in more than 60 countries from the World Values Survey 1997-2001. In support of our hypothesis, we find that market competition aggravates the impact of individual’s bargaining position in economic transactions on her subjective well-being – compared to the least powerful in society. Put differently, we find that market competition enlarges the happiness differences caused by cleavages in socio-economic position. Our results also suggest that competition induced welfare changes are not gender-specific, while a stronger rule of law appears to prevent the generation of such additional benefits or losses. Particularly the latter results call for further economic-experimental corroboration in the laboratory, but also bear important policy implications.

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Paper provided by Stockholm School of Economics in its series SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance with number 697.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: 20 Mar 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:hastef:0697
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  1. Christian Bjørnskov & Axel Dreher & Justina A. V. Fischer, 2006. "Cross-Country Determinants of Life Satisfaction:Exploring Different Determinants across Groups inSociety," STICERD - Political Economy and Public Policy Paper Series 21, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  2. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Arno Riedl, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5927, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  3. David Dorn & Justina Fischer & Gebhard Kirchgässner & Alfonso Sousa-Poza, 2007. "Is It Culture or Democracy? The Impact of Democracy and Culture on Happiness," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 82(3), pages 505-526, July.
  4. Clark, Andrew E. & Frijters, Paul & Shields, Michael A., 2007. "Relative Income, Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," IZA Discussion Papers 2840, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Fischer, Justina A. V. & Torgler, Benno, 2007. "Social Captial and Relative Income Concerns: Evidence from 26 Countries," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt8sv0k59c, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
  6. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2005. "Do Women Shy Away From Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?," NBER Working Papers 11474, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2000. "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," CESifo Working Paper Series 246, CESifo Group Munich.
  8. Bjørnskov, Christian & Drehe, Axel & Fischer, Justina A.V., 2008. "On decentralization and life satisfaction," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 147-151, April.
  9. Ernst Fehr & Georg Kirchsteiger & Arno Riedl, 2003. "Gift Exchange and Reciprocity in Competitive Experimental Markets," Labor and Demography 0305002, EconWPA.
  10. John F. Helliwell & Haifang Huang, 2006. "How's Your Government? International Evidence Linking Good Government and Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 11988, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Martin Brown & Armin Falk & Ernst Fehr, 2004. "Relational Contracts and the Nature of Market Interactions," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(3), pages 747-780, 05.
  12. Guth, Werner & Schmittberger, Rolf & Schwarze, Bernd, 1982. "An experimental analysis of ultimatum bargaining," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 367-388, December.
  13. Kachelmeier, Steven J. & Shehata, Mohamed, 1992. "Culture and competition: A laboratory market comparison between China and the West," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 145-168, October.
  14. Christopher F Baum & Mark E Schaffer & Steven Stillman, 2002. "IVREG2: Stata module for extended instrumental variables/2SLS and GMM estimation," Statistical Software Components S425401, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 29 Aug 2015.
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