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Happiness, Habits and High Rank: Comparisons in Economic and Social Life

  • Clark, Andrew E.


    (Paris School of Economics)

The role of money in producing sustained subjective well-being seems to be seriously compromised by social comparisons and habituation. But does that necessarily mean that we would be better off doing something else instead? This paper suggests that the phenomena of comparison and habituation are actually found in a considerable variety of economic and social activities, rendering conclusions regarding well-being policy less straightforward.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5966.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Stefano Bartolini, Ennio Bilancini, Luigino Bruni, and Pier-Luigi Porta (Eds.), Policies for Happiness, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016, 62-94
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5966
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  1. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  2. Andrew E. Clark & Fabrice Etilé, 2011. "Happy House: Spousal Weight and Individual Well-Being," Post-Print halshs-00654627, HAL.
  3. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2000. "Maximising Happiness?," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 1(2), pages 145-167, 05.
  4. Claudia Senik, 2002. "When Information Dominates Comparison. A Panel Data Analysis Using Russian Subjective Data," DELTA Working Papers 2002-02, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  5. Clark, Andrew E. & Kristensen, Nicolai & Westergård-Nielsen, Niels C., 2008. "Economic Satisfaction and Income Rank in Small Neighbourhoods," IZA Discussion Papers 3813, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  6. Andrew E. Clark & Ed Diener & Yannis Georgellis & Richard E. Lucas, 2003. "Lags and Leads in Life Satisfaction: A Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 371, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  7. Conchita D'Ambrosio & Joachim R. Frick, 2007. "Individual Well-Being in a Dynamic Perspective," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 5, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  8. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," NBER Working Papers 14282, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Blanchflower, David G. & Oswald, Andrew J. & van Landeghem, Bert, 2009. "Imitative Obesity and Relative Utility," IZA Discussion Papers 4010, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  10. Clark, Andrew E. & Senik, Claudia, 2011. "Will GDP Growth Increase Happiness in Developing Countries?," IZA Discussion Papers 5595, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  11. Charness, Gary & Rabin, Matthew, 2001. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," Department of Economics, Working Paper Series qt4qz9k8vg, Department of Economics, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  12. Clark, Andrew E. & Senik, Claudia, 2009. "Who Compares to Whom? The Anatomy of Income Comparisons in Europe," IZA Discussion Papers 4414, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. repec:pse:psecon:2009-01 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1998. "Comparison-concave utility and following behaviour in social and economic settings," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 133-155, October.
  15. Zizzo, D.J. & Oswald, A., 2000. "Are People Willing to Pay to Reduce Others' Incomes?," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 568, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
  16. Melenberg, B., 1992. "Micro-econometric models of consumer behaviour and welfare," Other publications TiSEM a96bf8fb-5eca-4a34-8a23-d, Tilburg University, School of Economics and Management.
  17. J. Solnick, Sara & Hemenway, David, 1998. "Is more always better?: A survey on positional concerns," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 37(3), pages 373-383, November.
  18. Clark, Andrew E. & Kristensen, Nicolai & Westergård-Nielsen, Niels C., 2007. "Job Satisfaction and Co-worker Wages: Status or Signal?," IZA Discussion Papers 3073, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  19. Andrew E. Clark & Paul Frijters & Michael A. Shields, 2008. "Relative income, happiness, and utility: An explanation for the Easterlin paradox and other puzzles," Post-Print halshs-00754299, HAL.
  20. repec:pse:psecon:2010-43 is not listed on IDEAS
  21. Erzo F.P. Luttmer, 2004. "Neighbors as Negatives: Relative Earnings and Well-Being," NBER Working Papers 10667, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2005. "How much do we care about absolute versus relative income and consumption?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 56(3), pages 405-421, March.
  23. Andrew Clark, 2001. "Unemployment As A Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," DELTA Working Papers 2001-17, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  24. Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2009. "Ill-health as a household norm: Evidence from other people's health problems," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 251-259, January.
  25. Oswald, Andrew J. & Powdthavee, Nattavudh, 2008. "Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(5-6), pages 1061-1077, June.
  26. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1994. "Satisfaction and comparison income," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9408, CEPREMAP.
  27. Bruno Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2000. "Happiness Prospers in Democracy," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 79-102, March.
  28. Fliessbach, Klaus & Weber, Bernd & Trautner, P. & Dohmen, Thomas J. & Sunde, Uwe & Elger, C. E. & Falk, Armin, 2007. "Social comparison affects reward-related brain activity in the human ventral striatum," Munich Reprints in Economics 20362, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  29. Di Tella, Rafael & Haisken-De New, John & MacCulloch, Robert, 2010. "Happiness adaptation to income and to status in an individual panel," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 834-852, December.
  30. Olof Johansson-Stenman & Fredrik Carlsson & Dinky Daruvala, 2002. "Measuring Future Grandparents" Preferences for Equality and Relative Standing," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(479), pages 362-383, April.
  31. Wu, Stephen, 2001. "Adapting to heart conditions: a test of the hedonic treadmill," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 495-507, July.
  32. John Knight & Lina Song, 2007. "Subjective Well-being and its Determinants in Rural China," Economics Series Working Papers 334, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  33. Clark, Andrew E., 1999. "Are wages habit-forming? evidence from micro data," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 39(2), pages 179-200, June.
  34. Richard E. Lucas & Andrew Clark & Yannis Georgellis & Ed Diener, 2002. "Re-Examining Adaptation and the Setpoint Model of Happiness: Reactions to Changes in Marital Status," DELTA Working Papers 2002-08, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  35. Andrew E. Clark & Orsolya Lelkes, 2009. "Let us pray: religious interactions in life satisfaction," PSE Working Papers halshs-00566120, HAL.
  36. Andrew E. Clark & Orsolya Lelkes, 2009. "Let us pray: religious interactions in life satisfaction," Working Papers halshs-00566120, HAL.
  37. Frank, Robert H. & Hutchens, Robert M., 1993. "Wages, seniority, and the demand for rising consumption profiles," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 251-276, August.
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