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Relative income and happiness in Asia: Evidence from nationwide surveys in China, Japan, and Korea

  • Oshio, Takashi
  • Nozaki, Kayo
  • Kobayashi, Miki
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    This study attempts to examine relative income effects on perceived happiness in three major Asian countries -- China, Japan, and Korea -- in comparison with the United Sates, on the basis of largely comparable nationwide surveys in these countries. Consistent with the results from previous studies in Western countries, comparisons with an individual's own income and average income of the reference group are significantly associated with the individual's perceived happiness in Asia. The associations between relative income and happiness are stronger for individual income than family income in China, while the opposite is true in Japan and Korea. Even after controlling for the subjective assessment of family income or personal class identification within the society as a whole, income comparisons within the reference group matter for assessing happiness, especially when using family income for comparisons. Moreover, relative deprivation within the reference group, which is measured by the Yitzhaki index, is negatively related to happiness, providing more evidence for the validity of the relative income hypothesis.

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    Paper provided by Center for Intergenerational Studies, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University in its series PIE/CIS Discussion Paper with number 487.

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    Length: 34 p.
    Date of creation: Oct 2010
    Date of revision:
    Handle: RePEc:hit:piecis:487
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    1. Adrian de la Garza & Atsushi Sannabe & Katsunori Yamada, 2008. "Job Satisfaction and Happiness: New Evidence from Japanese Union Workers," Discussion Papers in Economics and Business 08-10, Osaka University, Graduate School of Economics and Osaka School of International Public Policy (OSIPP).
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