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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: forthcoming in: Stefano Bartolini (ed.), Policies for Happiness, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5966
Contact details of provider: Postal: IZA, P.O. Box 7240, D-53072 Bonn, Germany
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References listed on IDEAS
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  1. Conchita D'Ambrosio & Joachim R. Frick, 2007. "Individual Well-Being in a Dynamic Perspective," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 673, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  2. Rafael Di Tella & John Haisken-De New & Robert Macculloch, 2010. "Happiness Adaptation to Income and to Status in an Individual Panel," Post-Print hal-00911821, HAL.
  3. Andrew Clark & Ed Diener & Yannis Georgellis & Richard E. Lucas, 2003. "Lags and Leads in Life Satisfaction: A Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," DELTA Working Papers 2003-14, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  4. Betsey Stevenson & Justin Wolfers, 2008. "Economic Growth and Subjective Well-Being: Reassessing the Easterlin Paradox," CESifo Working Paper Series 2394, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. 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.
  6. AndrewE. Clark & Nicolai Kristensen & Niels Westergård-Nielsen, 2009. "Job Satisfaction and Co-worker Wages: Status or Signal?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 119(536), pages 430-447, 03.
  7. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  8. Clark, Andrew E. & Senik, Claudia, 2010. "Will GDP Growth Increase Happiness in Developing Countries?," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 1024, CEPREMAP.
  9. Andrew E. Clark & Claudia Senik, 2009. "Who compares to whom? The anatomy of income comparisons in Europe," PSE Working Papers halshs-00586036, HAL.
  10. N Powdthavee, 2008. "Ill-Health as a Household Norm: Evidence from Other People's Health Problems," Discussion Papers 08/21, Department of Economics, University of York.
  11. Andrew E. Clark, 2003. "Unemployment as a Social Norm: Psychological Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 21(2), pages 289-322, April.
  12. 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.
  13. repec:pse:psecon:2010-43 is not listed on IDEAS
  14. repec:pse:psecon:2009-01 is not listed on IDEAS
  15. 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.
  16. Clark, Andrew E. & Kristensen, Nicolai & Westergaard-Nielsen, Niels, 2008. "Economic Satisfaction and Income Rank in Small Neighbourhoods," Working Papers 08-25, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.
  17. 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.
  18. 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).
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. Alpizar, Francisco & Carlsson, Fredrik & Johansson-Stenman, Olof, 2001. "How Much Do We Care About Absolute Versus Relative Income and Consumption?," Working Papers in Economics 63, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
  23. Andrew E. Clark & Fabrice Etilé, 2010. "Happy House: Spousal Weight and Individual Well-Being," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 349, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  24. Gary Charness & Matthew Rabin, 2003. "Understanding Social Preferences with Simple Tests," General Economics and Teaching 0303002, EconWPA.
  25. 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).
  26. Claudia Senik, 2002. "When Information Dominates Comparison. A Panel Data Analysis Using Russian Subjective Data," DELTA Working Papers 2002-02, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  27. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00566120 is not listed on IDEAS
  28. 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.
  29. Bruno Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2000. "Happiness Prospers in Democracy," Journal of Happiness Studies, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 79-102, March.
  30. 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.
  31. Bruno S. Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2000. "Maximising Happiness?," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 1(2), pages 145-167, 05.
  32. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
  33. 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.
  34. Andrew E. Clark & Orsolya Lelkes, 2009. "Let us pray: religious interactions in life satisfaction," PSE Working Papers halshs-00566120, HAL.
  35. 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.
  36. 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.
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