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Will Joe the Plumber envy Bill Gates? The impact of both absolute and relative differences on interdependent preferences

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  • Jérémy Celse

Abstract

We investigate experimentally the impact of unflattering social comparisons on individuals’ behaviour. More precisely, we examine the relationship between the satisfaction subjects derive from social comparisons and subjects’ decisions to reduce others’ income. In our experiment, subjects are randomly paired and receive an endowment. Then subjects have to report their satisfaction level after being informed of their own endowment and of their opponent’s endowment. Then they can choose, or not, to reduce their opponent’s endowment incurring a personal cost. We observe: (1) most people report their satisfaction to be negatively affected by learning others’ endowments; (2) destructive decisions are predominantly undertaken by dissatisfied subjects; (3) satisfaction is negatively affected by absolute difference (difference between subjects’ endowments measured in absolute terms) and (4) relative difference between subjects’ endowments modulates subjects’ negative behaviour.

Suggested Citation

  • Jérémy Celse, 2009. "Will Joe the Plumber envy Bill Gates? The impact of both absolute and relative differences on interdependent preferences," Working Papers 09-26, LAMETA, Universitiy of Montpellier, revised Dec 2009.
  • Handle: RePEc:lam:wpaper:09-26
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    File URL: http://www.lameta.univ-montp1.fr/Documents/DR2009-26.pdf
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    1. repec:spr:jhappi:v:18:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10902-016-9757-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Lenouvel, Vincent & Montginoul, Marielle, 2010. "Groundwater Management Instruments in a Conjunctive Use System: Assessing the Impact on Farmers’ Income Using Mixed Integer Linear Programming (MILP)," Journal of International Agricultural Trade and Development, Journal of International Agricultural Trade and Development, vol. 59(3).
    3. Jérémy CELSE, 2011. "Damaging the perfect image of athletes: How sport promotes envy," Working Papers 11-16, LAMETA, Universtiy of Montpellier, revised Jun 2011.

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