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Reported Job Satisfaction : What Does It Mean?


By reporting his satisfaction with his job or any other experience, an individual does not communicate the number of utils that he feels. Instead, he expresses his posterior preference over available alternatives conditional on acquired knowledge of the past. This new interpretation of reported job satisfaction restores the power of microeconomic theory without denying the essential role of discrepancies between one’s situation and available opportunities. Posterior human wealth discrepancies are found to be the best predictor of reported job satisfaction. Static models of relative utility and other subjective well-being assumptions are all unambiguously rejected by the data, as well as an "economic" model in which job satisfaction is a measure of posterior human wealth. The "posterior choice" model readily explains why so many people usually report themselves as happy or satisfied, why both younger and older age groups are insensitive to current earning discrepancies, and why the past weighs more heavily than the present and the future.

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Paper provided by Universite de Montreal, Departement de sciences economiques in its series Cahiers de recherche with number 9705.

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Length: 23 pages
Date of creation: 1997
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mtl:montde:9705
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  1. Oswald, Andrew J, 1997. "Happiness and Economic Performance," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 107(445), pages 1815-31, November.
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  4. repec:taf:emetrv:v:10:y:1991:i:2:p:235-252 is not listed on IDEAS
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  8. Clark, A.E., 1995. "Job Satisfaction and Gender: Why Are Women so Happy at Work?," DELTA Working Papers 95-10, DELTA (Ecole normale supérieure).
  9. Manski, C.F., 1991. "Adolescent Econometricians : How Do Youth Infer the Returns to Schooling," Working papers 9110, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  10. Levy-Garboua, Louis & Montmarquette, Claude & Simonnet, Veronique, 2007. "Job satisfaction and quits," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(2), pages 251-268, April.
  11. Adrian Pagan, 1985. "Two Stage and Related Estimators and Their Applications," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 741, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  12. Alex Michalos, 1980. "Satisfaction and happiness," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 8(4), pages 385-422, December.
  13. Mcleer, M. & Mckenzie, C.R., 1989. "When Are Two Step Estimators Efficient?," Papers 179, Australian National University - Department of Economics.
  14. Gilad, Benjamin & Kaish, Stanley & Loeb, Peter D., 1987. "Cognitive dissonance and utility maximization : A general framework," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 61-73, March.
  15. Tversky, Amos & Kahneman, Daniel, 1991. "Loss Aversion in Riskless Choice: A Reference-Dependent Model," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(4), pages 1039-61, November.
  16. Sousa-Poza, Alfonso & Sousa-Poza, Andres A., 2000. "Well-being at work: a cross-national analysis of the levels and determinants of job satisfaction," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 29(6), pages 517-538, November.
  17. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J. & Warr, Peter B., 1994. "Is job satisfaction u-shaped in age ?," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9407, CEPREMAP.
  18. Loomes, Graham & Sugden, Robert, 1986. "Disappointment and Dynamic Consistency in Choice under Uncertainty," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(2), pages 271-82, April.
  19. Loomes, Graham & Sugden, Robert, 1982. "Regret Theory: An Alternative Theory of Rational Choice under Uncertainty," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 92(368), pages 805-24, December.
  20. Easterlin, Richard A., 1995. "Will raising the incomes of all increase the happiness of all?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 35-47, June.
  21. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-83, May.
  22. Levy-Garboua, L. & Montmarquette, C., 1995. "Cognition in Seemingly Riskless Choices and Judgments," Papiers du Laboratoire de Microéconomie Appliquée 1995-04, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1).
  23. van de Stadt, Huib & Kapteyn, Arie & van de Geer, Sara, 1985. "The Relativity of Utility: Evidence from Panel Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(2), pages 179-87, May.
  24. Louis Lévy-Garboua & Claude Montmarquette, 1996. "A microeconometric study of theatre demand," Journal of Cultural Economics, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 25-50, March.
  25. Margaret Poloma & Brian Pendleton, 1990. "Religious domains and general well-being," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 22(3), pages 255-276, May.
  26. Clark, Andrew E. & Oswald, Andrew J., 1996. "Satisfaction and comparison income," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(3), pages 359-381, September.
  27. Louis Lévy-Garboua & Claude Montmarquette & Véronique Simonnet, 2001. "Job Satisfaction and Quits: Theory and Evidence from the German Socioeconomic Panel," CIRANO Working Papers 2001s-41, CIRANO.
  28. George J. Borjas, 1979. "Job Satisfaction, Wages, and Unions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 14(1), pages 21-40.
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