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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. Frey, Bruno S & Stutzer, Alois, 2000. "Happiness, Economy and Institutions," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(466), pages 918-38, October.
  2. Christian Bjørnskov & Axel Dreher & Justina A.V. Fischer, 2006. "Cross-Country Determinants of Life Satisfaction: Exploring Different Determinants across Groups in Society," KOF Working papers 06-145, KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich.
  3. Georg Kirchsteiger & Ernst Fehr & Arno Riedl, 1998. "Gift exchange and reciprocity in competitive experimental markets," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/5909, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  4. Justina AV Fischer & Benno Torgler, 2007. "Social Capital And Relative Income Concerns: Evidence From 26 Countries," NCER Working Paper Series 19, National Centre for Econometric Research.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Muriel Niederle & Lise Vesterlund, 2005. "Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete too Much?," Discussion Papers 04-030, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  8. 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.
  9. Fehr, Ernst & Kirchsteiger, George & Riedl, Arno, 1993. "Does Fairness Prevent Market Clearing? An Experimental Investigation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(2), pages 437-59, May.
  10. 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.
  11. Brown, Martin & Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst, 2003. "Relational Contracts and the Nature of Market Interactions," IZA Discussion Papers 897, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  12. 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.
  13. Bjørnskov, Christian & Drehe, Axel & Fischer, Justina A.V., 2008. "On decentralization and life satisfaction," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 147-151, April.
  14. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative Income, Happiness, and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 46(1), pages 95-144, March.
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