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Are the Joneses Making You Financially Vulnerable?

Author

Listed:
  • Barnett, Richard C.
  • Bhattacharya, Joydeep
  • Bunzel, Helle

Abstract

This note studies a model in which heterogeneous income agents get a utility boost only when their consumption catches up with the Joneses'. The resulting utility function is non-concave. In this setup, participation in a fair consumption lottery has the potential to make some agents ex-ante better off but more financially vulnerable. More income-diverse people join the lottery pool when the 'kick' from catching up increases. Worsening income inequality may increase the number of financially vulnerable people. The analysis sheds light on some aspects of the ongoing sub-prime mortgage crisis.

Suggested Citation

  • Barnett, Richard C. & Bhattacharya, Joydeep & Bunzel, Helle, 2008. "Are the Joneses Making You Financially Vulnerable?," Staff General Research Papers Archive 12909, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:12909
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. 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, pages 95-144.
    2. Lisa Farrell & Roger Hartley, 2002. "Can expected utility theory explain gambling?," Open Access publications 10197/539, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    3. 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, pages 95-144.
    4. Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2005. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 120(3), pages 963-1002.
    5. Roger Hartley & Lisa Farrell, 2002. "Can Expected Utility Theory Explain Gambling?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 613-624.
    6. Milton Friedman & L. J. Savage, 1948. "The Utility Analysis of Choices Involving Risk," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 56, pages 279-279.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    consumption externalities; catching up with the Jonses; non-concave utility; lotteries; inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • R21 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Household Analysis - - - Housing Demand

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