IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Happiness, deprivation and the alter ego

  • Paolo Verme


    (University of Torino)

The paper focuses on satisfaction with income and proposes a utility model built on two value systems, the `Ego' system - described as one own income assessment relatively to one own past and future income - and the `Alter' system - described as one own income assessment relatively to a reference group. We show how the union of these two value systems and the use of relative deprivation measures can lead to a model able to accommodate a wide range of theories on income and happiness. The model is then tested using the Consortium of Household Panels for European Socio-economic Research (CHER), a collection of 19 panel surveys including over 1.2 m. individual observations. We find absolute income to sit at the intersection between the `Ego' and the `Alter' systems and to play the most prominent role in explaining satisfaction with income. Relative deprivation is also found to be important for understanding the income-happiness nexus while we find income expectations to be less relevant once we control for absolute income. Overall, the `Alter' system (the cross-section comparison with others) seems to be more relevant in valuing income than the `Ego' system (the longitudinal self-comparison of income).

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality in its series Working Papers with number 155.

in new window

Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:inq:inqwps:ecineq2010-155
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

as in new window
  1. Farvaque, Etienne & Mihailov, Alexander, 2009. "Intergenerational Transmission of Inflation Aversion: Theory and Evidence," IRISS Working Paper Series 2009-11, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
  2. Alesina, Alberto F & Di Tella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert, 2001. "Inequality and Happiness: Are Europeans and Americans Different?," CEPR Discussion Papers 2877, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. 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).
  4. Philippe Van Kerm, 2013. "Generalized measures of wage differentials," Empirical Economics, Springer, vol. 45(1), pages 465-482, August.
  5. Okamura, Kazuaki & Islam, Nizamul, 2009. "State Dependence in Labour Force Participation of Married Women in Japan," IRISS Working Paper Series 2009-17, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
  6. Raileanu Szeles, Monica & Fusco, Alessio, 2009. "Item response theory and the measurement of deprivation: Evidence from PSELL-3," IRISS Working Paper Series 2009-05, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
  7. Andrew E. Clark and Andrew J. Oswald, . "Satisfaction and Comparison Income," Economics Discussion Papers 419, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  8. repec:ebl:ecbull:v:4:y:2008:i:7:p:1-9 is not listed on IDEAS
  9. Choe, Chung, 2009. "Determinants of Labor Market Outcomes of Disabled Men Before and After the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990," IRISS Working Paper Series 2009-07, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
  10. Hirschman, Albert O., 1973. "The changing tolerance for income inequality in the course of economic development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 1(12), pages 29-36, December.
  11. Yitzhaki, Shlomo, 1979. "Relative Deprivation and the Gini Coefficient," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(2), pages 321-24, May.
  12. Bargain, Olivier & Doorley, Karina, 2009. "Caught in the Trap? The Disincentive Effect of Social Assistance," IZA Discussion Papers 4291, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Paolo Verme, 2010. "A structural analysis of growth and poverty in the short-term," Journal of Developing Areas, Tennessee State University, College of Business, vol. 43(2), pages 19-39, January-M.
  14. Longford, Nicholas Tibor & Nicodemo, Catia, 2009. "A sensitivity analysis of poverty definitions," IRISS Working Paper Series 2009-15, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
  15. Liégeois, Philippe & Berger, Frederic & Islam, Nizamul & Wagener, Raymond, 2010. "Cross-validating administrative and survey datasets through microsimulation and the assessment of a tax reform in Luxembourg," EUROMOD Working Papers EM1/10, EUROMOD at the Institute for Social and Economic Research.
  16. Jacques Silber & Paolo Verme, 2009. "Distributional change, reference groups and the measurement of relative deprivation," Working Papers 136, ECINEQ, Society for the Study of Economic Inequality.
  17. Easterlin, Richard A, 2001. "Income and Happiness: Towards an Unified Theory," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(473), pages 465-84, July.
  18. Choe, Chung & Chrite, E. LaBrent, 2009. "Internal Migration of Blacks in South Africa: Self-selection and Brain Drain," IRISS Working Paper Series 2009-06, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
  19. Strawinski, Pawel, 2009. "External Return to Education in Europe," IRISS Working Paper Series 2009-09, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
  20. Paolo Verme & Rima Izem, 2008. "Relative Deprivation with Imperfect Information," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 4(7), pages 1-9.
  21. Paolo Verme, 2010. "Relative labour deprivation and urban migration in Turkey," Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 391-408, December.
  22. Conway, Brian, 2009. "Individual-Level Determinants of Religious Practice and Belief in Catholic Europe," IRISS Working Paper Series 2009-14, IRISS at CEPS/INSTEAD.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inq:inqwps:ecineq2010-155. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Maria Ana Lugo)

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.