IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Envy And Inequality

  • Francisco Alvarez-Cuadrado


  • Ngo Van Long


We present an overlapping generations economy populated by heterogeneous agents who care about their consumption relative to others and the bequest they leave to their offspring. In the presence of positional concerns individual saving and bequest rates vary across the income distribution. This dispersion in the rates of asset accumulation is the main channel for envy to impact the degree of intra-generational wealth inequality and its inter-generational transmission. Our results suggest that concerns for relative consumption might be an important explanatory factor for the surprisingly low levels of assets held by low-income households and the high concentration of bequests in the upper tail of the wealth distribution.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by McGill University, Department of Economics in its series Departmental Working Papers with number 2009-03.

in new window

Length: 31 pages
Date of creation: May 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mcl:mclwop:2009-03
Contact details of provider: Postal: 855 Sherbrooke St. W., Montréal, Québec, H3A 2T7
Phone: (514) 398-3030
Fax: (514) 398-4938
Web page:

More information through EDIRC

References listed on IDEAS
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.:

as in new window
  1. Jaime Alonso-Carrera & Jordi Caballe & Xavier Raurich, 2005. "Estate Taxes, Consumption Externalities, and Altruism," Working Papers 232, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  2. Curtis Eaton & Mukesh Eswaran, 2003. "The evolution of preferences and competition: a rationalization of Veblen's theory of invidious comparisons," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 36(4), pages 832-859, November.
  3. Clark, Andrew E. & Frijters, Paul & Shields, Michael A., 2007. "Relative Income, Happiness and Utility: An Explanation for the Easterlin Paradox and Other Puzzles," IZA Discussion Papers 2840, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  4. Fisher, Walter H. & Heijdra, Ben J., 2009. "Keeping up with the ageing Joneses," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 53-64, January.
  5. Kerwin Kofi Charles & Erik Hurst & Nikolai Roussanov, 2007. "Conspicuous Consumption and Race," NBER Working Papers 13392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. 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.
  7. Bill Dupor & Wen-Fang Liu, 2003. "Jealousy and Equilibrium Overconsumption," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 423-428, March.
  8. Ireland, Norman J., 1994. "On limiting the market for status signals," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 91-110, January.
  9. Angus Deaton & Christina Paxson, 1993. "Intertemporal Choice and Inequality," NBER Working Papers 4328, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Andrew B. Abel, . "Asset Prices Under Habit Formation and Catching Up With the Jones," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 1-90, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  11. Bernheim, B Douglas & Shleifer, Andrei & Summers, Lawrence H, 1986. "The Strategic Bequest Motive," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 4(3), pages S151-82, July.
  12. 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.
  13. Joseph G. Altonji & Ernesto Villanueva, 2003. "The Marginal Propensity to Spend on Adult Children," Working Papers 90, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  14. Barro, Robert J., 1974. "Are Government Bonds Net Wealth?," Scholarly Articles 3451399, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  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. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Summers, Lawrence H, 1981. "The Role of Intergenerational Transfers in Aggregate Capital Accumulation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 89(4), pages 706-32, August.
  17. Davies, James B. & Shorrocks, Anthony F., 2000. "The distribution of wealth," Handbook of Income Distribution, in: A.B. Atkinson & F. Bourguignon (ed.), Handbook of Income Distribution, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 11, pages 605-675 Elsevier.
  18. Becker, Gary S & Tomes, Nigel, 1979. "An Equilibrium Theory of the Distribution of Income and Intergenerational Mobility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1153-89, December.
  19. Jordi Caballé & Ana I. Moro-Egido, 2008. "The Effect of Aspirations, Habits, and Social Security on the Distribution of Wealth," Working Papers 352, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
  20. Arrondel, L. & Perelman, S. & Pestieau, P., . "The effect of bequest motives on the composition and distribution of assests in France. In T. Tachibanski (ed.)," CORE Discussion Papers RP 1117, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  21. Liu, Wen-Fang & Turnovsky, Stephen J., 2005. "Consumption externalities, production externalities, and long-run macroeconomic efficiency," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(5-6), pages 1097-1129, June.
  22. Sexauer, Martin & Kleiber, Christian & Wälde, Klaus, 2005. "Bequests, taxation and the distribution of wealth in a general equilibrium model," W.E.P. - Würzburg Economic Papers 61, University of Würzburg, Chair for Monetary Policy and International Economics.
  23. Moav, Omer & Neeman, Zvika, 2008. "Conspicuous Consumption, Human Capital and Poverty," CEPR Discussion Papers 6864, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  24. repec:oup:restud:v:72:y:2005:i:1:p:21-42 is not listed on IDEAS
  25. Neumark, David & Postlewaite, Andrew, 1998. "Relative income concerns and the rise in married women's employment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(1), pages 157-183, October.
  26. Abel, Andrew B, 1985. "Precautionary Saving and Accidental Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(4), pages 777-91, September.
  27. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
  28. Gali, Jordi, 1994. "Keeping Up with the Joneses: Consumption Externalities, Portfolio Choice, and Asset Prices," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 26(1), pages 1-8, February.
  29. repec:cor:louvrp:-1117 is not listed on IDEAS
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mcl:mclwop:2009-03. 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: (Shama Rangwala)

The email address of this maintainer does not seem to be valid anymore. Please ask Shama Rangwala to update the entry or send us the correct address

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.