Relative Income, Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles
The well-known Easterlin paradox points out that average happiness has remained constant over time despite sharp rises in GNP per head. At the same time, a micro literature has typically found positive correlations between individual income and individual measures of subjective well-being. This paper suggests that these two findings are consistent with the presence of relative income terms in the utility function. Income may be evaluated relative to others (social comparison) or to oneself in the past (habituation). We review the evidence on relative income from the subjective well-being literature. We also discuss the relation (or not) between happiness and utility and discuss some non-happiness research (behavioural, experimental, neurological) dealing with income comparisons. We last consider how relative income in the utility function affects economic models of behaviour in a number of different domains.
|Date of creation:||Jun 2007|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||published in: Journal of Economic Literature, 2008, 46 (1), 95-144|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Phone: +49 228 3894 223
Fax: +49 228 3894 180
Web page: http://www.iza.org
|Order Information:|| Postal: IZA, Margard Ody, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany|
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.:
- Stark, Oded, 2006.
"Inequality and migration: A behavioral link,"
Elsevier, vol. 91(1), pages 146-152, April.
- Stark, Oded, 2005.
"Status Aspirations, Wealth Inequality, and Economic Growth,"
166, Institute for Advanced Studies.
- Oded Stark, 2006. "Status Aspirations, Wealth Inequality, and Economic Growth," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(1), pages 171-176, 02.
- Vendrik, Maarten C. M., 1998. "Unstable bandwagon and habit effects on labor supply," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 36(2), pages 235-255, August.
- P. J. Sloane & H. Williams, 2000. "Job Satisfaction, Comparison Earnings, and Gender," LABOUR, CEIS, vol. 14(3), pages 473-502, 09.
- Vernon L. Smith, 1994. "Economics in the Laboratory," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 113-131, Winter.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2840. 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: (Mark Fallak)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.